According to national Poison Control data, more than 2,000 calls were received last year relating to Bath Salts. Bath Salts are a term which describes a host of drugs that are sold under a variety of names. Callers to poison control described frightening symptoms like hallucinations, paranoia and delusions after taking Bath Salts. A recent study on a key ingredient found in the drugs referred to as Bath Salts suggests that there are significant differences between adolescents and adults that may leave adolescents more vulnerable to use and abuse of these drugs.
MDPV In Bath Salts
The study took place at laboratories associated with American University. The study focused on adolescent and adult reactions to the drug MDPV, an ingredient often found in Bath Salts. Bath Salts are termed designer drugs because they are synthetic substances, or man-made chemical compounds. Those compounds are routinely altered, or re-designed, by drug traffickers to avoid prosecution for banned substances, but MDPV seems to be a somewhat constant ingredient. Studying the body’s reactions to MDPV could help explain what makes the drugs so addictive particularly to young people.
The research focused on chemical responses to MDPV, especially how adolescent and adult rats differed in their reactions. The study examined three main areas of comparison: aversiveness to the drug, core temperature after taking the drug and reaction by neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin to the drug’s presence. Aversiveness describes reactions which might make it less likely that a person (or rat) would use the drug.
How Age Affects Drug Aversion
The rats in the study were given a sweet solution at the same time as they were injected with MDPV. In this way rats were conditioned to associate the pleasant sweet solution with the effects of the drug. Rats which later refused the sweet solution were then, in effect, avoiding the effects of drug use. Individual aversion to drug use could then be measured. This study confirmed prior research by demonstrating a clear difference between adult and adolescent rats in terms of drug aversion. Adult rats were far more likely to demonstrate aversion compared to adolescent rats.
There were differences in the other two measured categories as well. Adult core body temperatures increased when the rats were given MDPV, but by contrast, adolescent core temperatures decreased. Similarly, levels of the neurotransmitters dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine measured lower in adolescent rats compared to adults after being given MDPV. Dopamine and other neurotransmitters are responsible for creating the feel-good or euphoric sensation associated with drug use.
The fact that adolescent rats were less reactive to averse effects than adults could mean that adolescents may be inherently more susceptible to using and abusing MDPV and other drugs. Low neurotransmitter responsiveness could drive abuse since more MDPV would be needed to create the desired sensations. One thing is evident, adults and adolescents respond differently to the substance.