Using the designer drugs known as “bath salts” is like playing Russian roulette with your brain, according to an expert at the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). Michael H. Baumann, PhD, Chief of the Designer Drug Research Unit at NIDA’s Intramural Research Program, recently published a study that explains how bath salts cause dangerous effects in the brain.
“People using bath salts can’t be sure about what psychoactive chemicals are present in them, and studies have shown that ingredients on the label often are not present in the products,” he says.
The active ingredients in bath salts that have been identified thus far are structurally similar to cathinone, which is a naturally occurring stimulant found in the khat plant, explains Dr. Baumann. In a rodent study recently published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology, he and his colleagues reported that synthetic cathinones disrupt the transport of the brain chemical dopamine, thereby causing large spikes in the amount of dopamine outside of nerve cells. Dopamine is implicated in the pleasurable effects of drugs, as well as their potential for abuse. “When a drug causes increases in dopamine, people will want to take that drug repeatedly,” he says. The study found a bath salt ingredient, MDPV, is 10 to 50 times more potent than cocaine in its ability to increase dopamine in the brain.
Emergency rooms around the country have reported cases of people taking bath salts who become psychotic, violent and delirious. These patients also may have a very high body temperature. Some people have died from bath salts use.
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Beedie Savage – President of Quantum Units Education