Methylenedioxymethamphetamine – more commonly referred to as MDMA – is also the drug known as ecstasy. Designer, or synthetic, drugs are manmade chemical compounds which produce effects similar to those associated with already-known drugs. In the case of MDMA, designers use either methylone or mephedrone to create “knock-off” drugs called bath salts. The effects produced by MDMA and bath salts are comparable, but not identical.
The Investigative Study To Compare Bath Salts And Ecstasy
In a 2011 study published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology, researchers at the National Institute of Drug Abuse and at several centers collaborated on a study using rats to investigate how each of those substances acts on the brain. Some rats were given MDMA; some were given mephedrone and some methylone. Other rats, acting as the control group, were given saline. The researchers then evaluated brain tissue and brain fluid to assess each substance’s effects.
How Bath Salts And Ecstasy (MDMA) Act The Same
It was first noted that all three drugs raised concentrations of serotonin and dopamine in the extracellular fluid as compared with rats who’d been given only saline. And, in all cases, the drugs seemed to stimulate greater amounts of serotonin than dopamine. Dopamine and serotonin are neurotransmitters in the brain that produce feelings of pleasure. Most addiction is connected to the stimulation of these pleasure chemicals.
After comparing the extracellular fluids, investigators next looked at brain tissue samples. These tests revealed that the drugs reversed the normal action of transporters in brain cells. Transporters usually cause the “feel good” neurotransmitters to be absorbed back into the cell from the fluid. But after the drugs were administered, instead of causing absorption, the transporters were flooding the extracellular space with these chemicals.
How Bath Salts And Ecstasy Differ
There were a couple of differences, however. When doses of MDMA were repeated, the serotonin levels in the brain actually began to drop. Such was not the case with repeated doses of methylone or mephedrone. Furthermore, as stimulants, all of the drugs initially produced accelerated activity and hyperthermia. But with repeated exposure, MDMA led to specific behaviors related to body posture, which were different from those caused by the other two substances. For instance, MDMA produced a body-flattening behavior versus the rearing behavior caused by methylone and mephedrone.
Possible Explanation For The Behavioral Differences Of Bath Salts And MDMA
Researchers say that one reason for the behavioral differences could be that MDMA is actually more toxic than the synthetic drugs. Still, investigators hasten to add that further research is needed to confirm the hypothesis.
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