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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Bath Salts Addiction Mirrors Cocaine Addiction

Structure of cocaine
Structure of cocaine (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Health experts, congressional leaders, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and research scientists are scrambling to get their collective arms around bath salts, highly addictive synthetic drugs. Just last week the DEA had their first nationwide enforcement raid, Operation Log Jam, arresting 91 people and seizing $36 million in cash, 4.9 million packets of synthetic marijuana, material to make 13.6 million more packages and 167,000 packages of synthetic hallucinogens known as bath salts.  These synthetic drugs are dangerous, easily obtainable both in small local stores and online, and the formula used to create the drug can be altered to skirt the law making enforcement and research difficult.

New research conducted by Dr. C. J. Malanga, an associate professor of neurology, pediatrics and psychology at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, indicates that bath salts not only have the potential for abuse and addiction, but that potential mirrors cocaine addiction. 

Dr. Malanga and his colleagues used mice and a technique called intracranial self-stimulation (ICSS) comparing cocaine to bath salt mephedrone on the brain's reward circuits. According to The State Journal's report:
"The researchers measured the rodents' wheel spinning efforts before, during and after they were given various doses of cocaine or mephedrone. Like cocaine, mephedrone made intracranial self-stimulation more rewarding for the mice."
It is important to remember that animal studies are useful and a first step in understanding the complexity and effects of a drug; however, the research process does not always produce the same results in humans.  Dr. Malanga's research will be published in a future issue of the journal Behavioural Brain Research.

As always, staying abreast and really aware of what items are available particularly to your teenagers and young adult children is important. Research will continue, but it is not too early to talk to your family members and friends about the dangers involved with bath salts.

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