Synthetic Cathinones ("Bath Salts")


A young woman looking out on the beach at sunset.
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  • Synthetic cathinones are a class of lab-made stimulants chemically related to substances found in the khat plant. Khat is a shrub grown in East Africa and southern Arabia that some people consume for its stimulant effects. Illicit synthetic cathinones are more commonly known as “bath salts.” People may ingest illicit synthetic cathinones intentionally—sometimes as cheaper or more accessible alternatives to other drugs—or unintentionally, as contaminants in other drugs. Some synthetic cathinones, such as bupropion, are medicines approved to treat specific conditions or are being investigated as potential treatments for substance use disorders.
  • Research shows illicit synthetic cathinone use can be life-threatening and cause other serious health and safety problems. People who use synthetic cathinones regularly may develop stimulant use disorder.
  • NIDA supports and conducts research to better understand how synthetic cathinone use impacts individual and public health, how to prevent and address related harms, and whether certain synthetic cathinones can be used to treat substance use disorders in clinical settings.