The recreational drug MDPV, better known as “bath salts,” could be more addictive compared to methamphetamine, currently one of the most addictive substances.
“Bath salts” drugs are in fact derived from cathinone, the main active component in a leaf known as khat, which is chewed throughout the Arabian Peninsula and northeast Africa for its stimulant effects. Pharmaceutical companies synthesized cathinone decades ago, but it was not used at all. Underground chemists rediscovered cathinone derivatives during the early 2000s.
The normal removal of the neurotransmitters serotonin, noradrenaline and dopamine are inhibited by cathinone derivatives. Brain network activity that mediate pleasure, desire, cognition and muscle movements are in this way disturbed by the derivatives. Typical stimulant effects like an increase in physical activity, an initial euphoria, a lack of desire for water or food and an inability to sleep, as well as almost irresistible cravings to have more of the drug, have been described by users. Larger dosages bring a high risk of suicide, violence and paranoid psychoses.
Some of the main stimulant effects of MDPV were directly compared to the stimulant effects of methamphetamine in a study. Lab rats could press a lever dose to themselves intravenously, a standard technique for the stimulant drug evaluation. Typically for addictive stimulants, the rats maintained a regular self-administration of each drug when they could. In a set of tests meant to evaluate how much each drug was desired the rats, only by making increased amounts of lever presses could they get another infusion.
When the amount of lever presses a rat would need to make to receive yet another infusion of drug was increased, the rats made an average of around 60 lever presses for one dose of METH but up to around 600 lever presses for MDPV, for just one hit of MDPV some rats would even make 3,000 lever presses. If these lever presses are regarded as a measure of how much work a rat will do to get a dose, then to get MDPV these rats worked more than 10X harder.