Cathinone is an amphetamine Amphetamines Amphetamines are stimulant drugs that are used to treat certain medical conditions, but are also subject to abuse. Amphetamines increase alertness, enhance physical performance, and produce... read more -like stimulant derived from the plant Catha edulis (khat). The khat plant is a shrub grown in East Africa and on the Arabian peninsula. For centuries, people there have chewed the leaves for their mild stimulant effect. In those regions, chewing khat is often a social activity, similar to coffee drinking in other societies.
Recently, khat use has spread to other countries, and much stronger, man-made (synthetic) cathinones marketed as "bath salts" have become drugs of abuse.
(See also Drug Use and Abuse Overview of Substance-Related Disorders Drugs are an integral part of everyday life for many people, whether the drugs are used for legitimate medical purposes or recreationally (see table Drugs with Medical and Recreational Uses)... read more .)
The effects of synthetic cathinones are similar to those of amphetamines and include headache, a rapid heart rate (tachycardia Ventricular Tachycardia Ventricular tachycardia is a heart rhythm that originates in the ventricles (lower chambers of the heart) and produces a heart rate of at least 120 beats per minute (the normal heart rate is... read more ), palpitations, hallucinations, agitation, and an increased endurance and tolerance for pain. Some people become violent.
Cathinones can cause a dangerously high body temperature (hyperthermia Overview of Heat Disorders Humans, who are warm-blooded animals, maintain their body temperature within 1 or 2 degrees of 98.6° F (37° C) as measured by mouth and 100.4° F (38° C) as measured rectally, despite large fluctuations... read more ). They also may cause serious organ damage, although doctors are not sure why. Organ damage can include
Breakdown of muscle (rhabdomyolysis)
A doctor's evaluation
Blood and urine tests
Because synthetic cathinones are not detected with routine urine or blood testing, doctors usually base the diagnosis on symptoms in people known to have used the drug. Doctors typically order the following specific tests for anyone showing signs of severe acute cathinone intoxication:
Blood tests (to check blood count, levels of electrolytes, and kidney function)
Urine testing for myoglobinuria (to test for muscle destruction)
Typical treatments, which include IV sedatives and fluids and supportive care, are usually adequate. People with dangerously high body temperature (hyperthermia Serotonin Syndrome Serotonin syndrome is a potentially life-threatening drug reaction that tends to cause high body temperature, muscle spasms, and anxiety or delirium. Serotonin is a chemical that transmits impulses... read more ), persistently high heart rate or agitation, and blood tests that suggest possible kidney problems should be hospitalized and monitored for muscle breakdown and heart and kidney damage.