Addictions: synthetic drugs

Under the name "bath salts", "legal highs", "fertilizers", "incense" or "products for chemical research", new synthetic drugs, mimicking the effects of conventional drugs (cannabis, cocaine, MDMA, amphetamines.) circulate on the internet, at unbeatable prices, but with unpredictable, little-known and potentially dangerous physical, psychic, social health risks.

There have been more than 450 new synthetic products since 1997, more than two-thirds of which have appeared since 2008.

The family of synthetic cathinones with that of cannabinoids dominate the top of the toxic pavement. We will be interested in the first ones, which are chemical derivatives of the natural cathinone found in the khat leaf.

Synthetic cathinones are consumed in different ways. This may be :

  • orally ("bombing") where the powder is put into a cigarette sheet and then swallowed,
  • intranasally, inhaled or smoked.
  • intravenous in a sexual context or not, it is "slam".
  • The plug or intrarectal route (enemas, suppositories) is also possible.

Different substances

The family of synthetic cathinones is numerous and prohibited in France by Decree in the Official Journal in July 2012.

The 3 M (Mephedrone, MDPV, Methylone), 4-MEC, alpha-PVP are the most well known.

" NRGs " are mixtures of cathinones, such as "NRG1" which may contain a variable mixture of naphthylpyrovalerone (NPV), 4-fluoromethcathinone, MDPV, MDPBP and pentylone. They are mainly bought on the Internet, their production is Asian but there are also European places (Poland, Holland). Prices per gram are low when purchases are large.

Mephedrone behaves like methamphetamine (little present in France), MDPV as cocaine and methylone as MDMA.

4-MEC rapidly replaced mephedrone on the web when it was banned in isolation from 2010 following deaths in Sweden and the United Kingdom in 2010. Alpha-PVP is very close to MDPV.

The effects

The psychoactive effects of these substances are subject-, dose-, dependent administration route. The main consumers of these new synthetic products are the festive, trendy, sex-loving gay group; the alternative party scene; subjects addicted to psychostimulant drugs, and / or under opioid substitution treatment; socially inserted subjects, knowing the drugs, wanting to experiment with new substances.

The duration of the effects varies according to the products: from 2 to 5 hours for mephedrone or from 2 to 7 hours for the MDPV for example.

The effects sought by consumers are increased sociability, empathy, euphoria, increased sexual performance and work capacity.

Unwanted side effects related to the use of these products are addiction, "descent" (use of other drugs to manage), withdrawal syndrome, psychiatric, physical, social complications, overdoses, drug interactions (psychotropic, anti-HIV, hepatitis C treatment), STIs due to unsafe sexual practices and complications of intravenous injections (slam in chemsex).


They are numerous, both somatic and psychiatric.

Acute intoxication with synthetic cathinones can be the cause of a disturbing symptomatology including:

  • tachycardia,
  • chest pain,
  • high blood pressure,
  • ECG abnormalities,
  • hyperthermia
  • mydriasis,
  • bruxism,
  • abdominal pain,
  • vomiting,
  • headache,
  • cerebral edema,
  • convulsions
  • tremors,
  • parkinsonism,
  • hyponatremia,
  • rhabdomyolysis
  • renal failure,
  • vasoconstriction of the extremities.

Several cases of serotonin syndrome have been reported in relation to cathinone consumption.

The main psychiatric consequences of consumption of synthetic cathinones are the occurrence of:

  • anxiety,
  • prolonged panic attack,
  • acute delusional state,
  • hallucinations;
  • paranoia,
  • insomnia,
  • depression,
  • suicidal ideas and
  • cognitive disorders.

Cases of death associated with synthetic cathinones have been reported.

The treatment

There is no cure for a disorder related to the use of new synthetic products. The drug approach is symptomatic. Behavioral therapy is part of treatment, as well as the identification and treatment of associated psychiatric and somatic pathologies, and risky sexual behaviors.

You want to react, to give your testimony or to ask a question? Appointment in our FORUMS Dependencies, Psychology or A doctor answers you!

Read also :

> Substance abuse and drug dependence
> Addiction and sophrology
> Young people and alcohol: what can parents do?

Author: Dr. Laurent Karila, author of the book "Ideas Received on addictions" editions le Cavalier Bleu.
April 3, 2017

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