'Bath Salts' Demonstrate High Potential for Abuse

Mice study shows mephedrone stimulates brain reward centers in similar manner to cocaine

FRIDAY, July 27 (HealthDay News) -- Mephedrone, a synthetic stimulant known as "bath salts," stimulates reward centers in the brain in a similar manner to cocaine, indicating a high potential for abuse, according to a study published in the Sept. 1 issue of Behavioural Brain Research.

J. Elliott Robinson, from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and colleagues examined the ability of mephedrone and cocaine to alter the response of mice to intracranial self-stimulation of the medial forebrain bundle, which is involved in reward perception.

The researchers found that, beginning 15 minutes after mephedrone administration, there was a dose-dependent decrease in the half maximal responding (maximum effect, 72.3 percent of baseline), the brain stimulation reward threshold (maximum effect, 59.6 percent of baseline), and the maximum response rate (maximum effect, 67.0 percent of baseline). Similar results were observed immediately after administration of cocaine, with similar potencies, although there was no effect on maximum response rate.

"The effects of mephedrone on the brain's reward circuits are comparable to similar doses of cocaine," Robinson said in a statement. "As expected our research shows that mephedrone likely has significant abuse liability."

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