San Diego, Calif. The street drug commonly referred to as "bath salts" is one of a growing list of synthetic and unevenly regulated narcotics that are found across the United States and on the Internet. New research on this potent drug paints an alarming picture, revealing that bath salts pack a powerful double punch, producing combined effects similar to both methamphetamine (METH) and cocaine.
"This combination of effects is particularly novel and unexpected," said Louis J. De Felice of Virginia Commonwealth University's School of Medicine in Richmond. "Methamphetamine and cocaine operate in the brain in completely opposite ways. It would be atypical that both drugs would be taken together, but that's the effect that occurs with bath salts."
De Felice and his colleagues will present their research at the 56th Annual Meeting of the Biophysical Society (BPS), held Feb. 25-29 in San Diego, Calif.
The team's research reveals that bath salts contain two structurally similar chemicals that produce quite dissimilar effects on the brain's dopamine transport system. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that plays an important role in the brain's pleasure and reward centers. Though bath salts' chemicals are structurally similar, both acting as potent psycho-stimulants, they use completely opposite mechanisms in the brain.
The first component is a dopamine-releasing agent known as mephedrone (MEPH), which like METH causes the brain to release more dopamine. The other chemical is methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV), which like cocaine is a dopamine reuptake inhibitor. Both compounds increase dopamine availability to receptors, and both through different mechanisms produce feelings of euphoria.
The surprising finding is that rather than canceling each other out, as would be anticipated, the chemicals combine to enhance the effects of the other. "The two drugs have different kinetics, so rather than cancel each other they ex
|Contact: Ellen R. Weiss|
American Institute of Physics