Bath Salts As Addictive As Cocaine

By Amir Khan on July 25, 2012 12:35 PM EDT

Bath Salt
Bath salts, the recreational drug that has made news recently because of the bizarre effects it has on its users, may be is as addictive as cocaine (Photo: Creative Commons)

Bath salts, the recreational drug that has made news recently because of the bizarre effects it has on its users, may be is as addictive as cocaine, according to a new study, published in the journal Behavioural Brain Research.

Researchers from the University of North Carolina School of Medicine trained mice to spin a wheel to receive a reward -- electrical stimulation in this case.

"These are tiny, tiny currents at the very tip of a tiny, tiny electrode, delivering the current to very specific and discrete brain circuits," Dr. C.J. Malanga, study coauthor and an associate professor of neurology, pediatrics and psychology at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, said, according to LiveScience. "If you let them, an animal will work to deliver self-stimulation to the exclusion of everything else - it won't eat, it won't sleep."

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Researchers measured the effort the mice put forth to receive the reward before, during and after the mice received doses of bath salts or cocaine.

"All drugs of abuse, regardless of how they act in the brain - heroin, morphine, cocaine amphetamine, alcohol, do the same thing to ICSS, they increase its rewarding value," Malanga said. Mice that weren't willing to spin the wheel for a low amount of stimulation did once they were administered the drugs.

Bath salts are all based on different variations of the chemical cathinone, which comes from khat, a plant native to the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. It is banned in 42 states and was federally listed as a Schedule I drug by the Obama Administration on July 9, 2012.

Bath salts can cause a variety of effects, including delusions, personality changes, paranoia, suicidal thoughts, seizures and death.

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