Purpose of review
New designer drugs are constantly emerging in the illicit drug market and represent a significant health problem. A very popular class comprises synthetic cathinones, β-keto amphetamine analogues, endowed with psychostimulant properties. The aim of this review is to discuss the recent progress in our understanding of how cathinones act and the health consequences of their use.
Despite being banned, synthetic cathinones are still used, especially by certain sub-populations. The recently observed trend to supplement psychostimulatory drugs of abuse with mephedrone must be considered highly dangerous to the public health. At the molecular level, the drugs act as blockers or substrates for monoamine transporter proteins. In animal studies, cathinones were found to evoke abuse-related behaviors and to have a negative impact on cognitive processes. The increased popularity of mephedrone among men who have sex with men with alarming sexual health consequences warrants the implementation of new treatments and education/training programs.
Synthetic cathinones exert similar, but not identical, effects to psychostimulatory drugs of abuse. The use of cathinones may lead to serious psychotic, neurological, cardiovascular, and sexual health consequences. Exposure to these drugs may result in multiorgan failure and death.