Effect of "Bath Salts" on the Brain Similar to Cocaine
Up until now, the sale of "bath salts" has been unregulated for the most part, and the synthetic stimulants have been available via the internet and even in local convenience stores. However, several countries have now banned the production, sale, and possession of the substance, due to compulsive use by some individuals, and deaths linked to the drug.
"Bath salts" possess strong potential for abuse and addiction
A report based on a recent research study regarding the use of mephedrone is available online in the June 21st edition of the journal Behavioral Brain Research. "Bath salts" contain mephedrone (4-methylmethicathinone which is also known as "meow-meow"). Although health officials have long suspected that these stimulants contribute to addictive behavior and changes in brain function among users, the research study provides significant evidence that mephedrone affects the brain's pleasure and reward circuits in a similar way to drugs such as cocaine.
Mice rewarded by mephedrone as well as cocaine
The study itself was led by Dr. C.J. Malanga from the University of North Carolina School of Medicine. Mephedrone and cocaine were administered to different groups of laboratory mice. The effect of the stimulants on the reward circuits of the animal's brains was then measured using intracranial self-stimulation. It was determined that the mephedrone acted on the brain by inappropriately activating pleasure and reward circuits involved during positive reinforcement in the same manner as similar doses of cocaine.
The discovery is important in that it provides justification for recent legislation passed by the Food and Drug Administration to restrict mephedrone in the U.S. and to permanently ban the sale of "bath salts".