Cathinone, also called benzoylethanamine, is a compound found in the khat plant throughout the Middle East and northern and central Africa. It is chemically very close to ephedrine and amphetamine and is similarly addictive. For centuries khat leaves have been chewed throughout the Middle East for their mild stimulant effects. Cathinone has been isolated and synthesized for decades, but recently came to international attention as a frequent ingredient in the designer drugs referred to as “bath salts” and “plant food” as well as in the famous party drug MDMA. When taken in its pure form or added to other psychoactive chemicals, cathinone can have the following effects:
- Bursts of energy that last for hours
Some users mistakenly believe that since cathinone and its related compounds come from a natural plant they must be safer than other drugs. The truth is that this chemical compound is isolated and synthesized in much the same way as the much more famous and problematic drug cocaine. In fact, in its pure form cathinone effects are even more potent than cocaine.
How Cathinone Works
Cathinone causes the brain to release the euphoria inducing chemical dopamine. This is what gives the user the associated high, and is also what creates such a strong potential for addiction. Specialized chemical receptors recognize the presence of dopamine and the relief it provides for underlying anxiety or other emotional distress. The brain then craves that relief, causing the user to keep taking the chemical again and again. Though it seems that cathinone does not create much of a physical dependency in users, psychological addiction is incredibly powerful.
Symptoms of Cathinone Addiction
The symptoms of cathinone addiction are similar to those of cocaine, amphetamine, or crystal meth and include the following:
- Obsession with finding and taking the drug
- Defensiveness when approached by friends or loved ones about the use of the drug
- Psychological symptoms when detoxing from the drug
- The need for larger and more frequent doses in order to achieve the original effects
Many people have become addicted to cathinone because of their experimentation with bath salts and other novel drugs. Some people become addicted the first time they try the drug.