Cat, Crank, and Bath Salts. How dangerous are these designer amphetamines?

Cathinone is a naturally occurring stimulant drug.

When we think of stimulant drugs being abused on the streets, we think of crystal meth or prescription amphetamines, such as Adderall or Ritalin. These drugs are either illegal or highly controlled. However, there is a class of synthetic stimulants that are similar to a naturally occurring drug known as cathinone. Cathinone is a stimulant drug which is similar to amphetamine. Methcathinone is a methylated form which is similar to methamphetamine. Cathinone is sometimes known as “cat” or “crank”. The midwest has seen the use of these drugs at epidemic proportions going back at least to the 90s. The name “crank” comes from motorcycle-riding dealers and curriers carrying the drug in the crank-case of their bike. In recent years, we have seen a variety of synthetic versions of cathinone being marketed online and in gas stations and convenience stores as bath salts.

Not for human consumption.

MDPV is one ingredient that is found in bath salts. It was first synthesized in the 60s. Mephedrone is another drug sold as bath salts. MDPV, mephedrone, and other varieties of the drug are packaged as bath salts with the printed warning that they are not for human consumption. This warning and the fact that the chemical is altered to not resemble a controlled drug is what allows the legal sale of bath salts. The federal government is constantly playing a game of cat and mouse with laboratories and retailers to keep up with making new versions of the drug illegal.

Bath Salts and face-eating: Violent behavior, agitation, and hallucination.

There was a well-known news story years ago about a Florida man eating another man’s face off. Since bath salts were also a big story in the news at the time, it was concluded by many people that the man must have been high on bath salts. Since it was known that bath salts had the potential to make users unstable, violent and agitated, bath salts users were known to act out unpredictably. It seemed reasonable that bath salts abuse might lead to such a face-eating incident. While police strongly suspected bath salts as a cause of the man’s cannibalistic behavior, the medical examiner ruled it out after toxicology results came back. However, experts stated that due to the nature of ingredients in bath salts varying so much, it is possible that they did not test for all possible forms of bath salts ingredients.

Snorting vs injecting bath salts.

Probably the most common way bath salts users administer the drug is by snorting. Yet, there are users who inject the drug. Injecting bath salts is considered to be highly dangerous since the active ingredients can vary so much in chemical structure and potency. Snorting the drug causes the mind-altering amphetamine-like drug to act quickly, causing stimulant-like effects and hallucinations. The effects are similar to those of cocaine or methamphetamine.

Is bath salts addiction a concern?

Yes, bath salts, like any other amphetamine-like substance, can be highly addicting. The long-term effects of the drug include chronic addiction in which future use of the drug by a user who has been clean long-term will likely lead to cravings and relapse.

Treatment options for designer drugs.

The treatment of addiction to drugs such as MDPV and mephedrone is similar to treatment of any stimulant addiction. One additional concern is that some of these synthetic designer stimulants may not show up on a standard drug test. In this case, it is important to order an extended panel of drugs that are calibrated to pick up many of the newer designer drugs.