Bath Salts Mimic Cocaine in the Brain
The synthetic stimulants known as bath salts have been popular amongst addicts and users for the past five years, but up until now, very little was known about their effects. New research from the University Of North Carolina School Of Medicine now shows that bath salts have a similar effect on the brain to cocaine.
This new study shows that bath salts, or mephedrone, promotes compulsive drug use and stimulates reward circuits in the brain.
Study co-author C.J. Malanga, MD, PhD, associate professor of neurology, pediatrics and psychology at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine said, "The effects of mephedrone on the brain's reward circuits are comparable to similar doses of cocaine. As expected our research shows that mephedrone likely has significant abuse liability."
In their research, the scientists measured something called intracranial self-stimulation or ICSS to test the effects of bath salts. The scientists trained mice to spin a wheel and then used ICSS to trigger reward circuits in their brain every time they correctly preformed the task.
The scientists then measured how much stimulation was needed to keep the mice spinning the wheel under normal circumstances compared to when they were given cocaine or mephedrone.
"One of the unique features of ICSS is that all drugs of abuse, regardless of how they work pharmacologically, do very similar things to ICSS: they make ICSS more rewarding," Malanga said. "Animals work harder to get less of it [ICSS] when we give them these drugs."
Just like the mice on cocaine, the mice given mephedrone were more likely to spin their wheel for an ICSS self-reward. This means that mephedrone has a similar habit forming potential to cocaine and other highly addictive drugs.Continued on the next page