Recreational drugs called bath salts have
become infamous for their bizarre effects
on drug users, causing a whole host of
mind and body changes including
delusions, nausea and vomiting, seizures
and even death.
And now, a new study has found that the
drug is not only potent – but highly
Researchers from The Scripps Research
Institute (TSRI) have found that bath salts
– also known as MDPV (3,4-
methylenedioxypyrovalerone) – could
actually be more addictive than
methamphetamine, one of the most
addictive drugs on the market.
Along with his colleagues, Michael A.
Taffe, TSRI associate professor and
principal investigator on the study,
created an experiment in which rats were
capable of dosing themselves
intravenously with either MDPV or
methamphetamine, just by pressing a
lever. The more times the rats pressed a
lever, the more infusions of the drug they
“We observed that rats will press a lever
more often to get a single infusion of
MPDV than they will for meth, across a
fairly wide dose range,” Taffe said.
Overall, the rats averaged around 60 lever
presses for a dose of meth, compared to
an average of 600 for a dose of MDPV.
“Some rats would even emit 3,000 lever
presses for a single hit of MDPV,” said
Shawn M. Aarde, a TSRI research assistant
who was first author of the study.
Bath salt drugs are derived from
cathinone, the principle active ingredient
of a leaf called khat. The plant is common
throughout northeast Africa and the
Arabian peninsula, where it is chewed for
its stimulant effects. Discovered by
underground chemists in the early 2000s,
cathinone derivatives have been sold as
“bath salts” or “plant food” to skirt laws.
These drugs disrupt the regular removal
of the neurotransmitters dopamine,
noradrenaline and serotonin from
synapses, disturbing brain activities that
control desire, pleasure, muscle
movements and cognition. Bath salt users
will feel initial euphoria, increased
physical activity and a lack of desire to
sleep or eat. Uncontrollable cravings for
the drug often lead them to take higher
doses, causing paranoia, violence and