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Adv Pharmacol. 2014;69:581-620. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-12-420118-7.00015-9.

Bath salts, mephedrone, and methylenedioxypyrovalerone as emerging illicit drugs that will need targeted therapeutic intervention.

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  • 1Department of Medicinal Chemistry, School of Pharmacy, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, Virginia, USA. Electronic address:


The term "synthetic cathinones" is fairly new, but, although the abuse of synthetic cathinones is a recent problem, research on cathinone analogs dates back >100 years. One structural element cathinone analogs have in common is an α-aminophenone moiety. Introduction of amine and/or aryl substituents affords a large number of agents. Today, >40 synthetic cathinones have been identified on the clandestine market and many have multiple "street names." Many cathinone analogs, although not referred to as such until the late 1970s, were initially prepared as intermediates in the synthesis of ephedrine analogs. The cathinones do not represent a pharmacologically or mechanistically homogeneous class of agents. Currently abused synthetic cathinones are derived from earlier agents and seem to produce their actions primarily via the dopamine, norepinephrine, and/or serotonin transporter; that is, they either release and/or inhibit the reuptake of one or more of these neurotransmitters. The actions of these agents can resemble those of central stimulants such as methamphetamine, cocaine, and/or empathogens such as 1-(3,4-methylenedioxyphenyl)-2-aminopropane (Ecstasy) and/or produce other effects. Side effects are primarily of a neurological and/or cardiovascular nature. The use of the "and/or" term is emphasized because synthetic cathinones represent a broad class of agents that produce a variety of actions; the agents cannot be viewed as being pharmacologically equivalent. Until valid structure-activity relationships are formulated for each behavioral/mechanistic action, individual synthetic cathinones remain to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Treatment of synthetic cathinone intoxication requires more "basic science" research. At this time, treatment is mostly palliative.

© 2014 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


Amphetamine; Bath salts; Cathinone; Dopamine transporter; MDPV; Mephedrone; Methamphetamine; Methcathinone; Methylenedioxypyrovalerone; Methylone; Serotonin transporter; α-Aminophenones

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