07 Feb MDPV Abuse
MDPV is the common abbreviation for methylenedioxypyrovalerone, an illegal, manmade drug that belongs to a class of substances called synthetic cathinones. Illicit drug manufacturers base all substances in this class on a naturally occurring plant compound called cathinone, which bears a chemical resemblance to amphetamine and produces stimulating and hallucinatory effects similar to those associated with the drug MDMA (Ecstasy). MDPV is the most common ingredient in a group of illegal designer drugs known collectively as “bath salts.” In some respects, it produces stronger brain effects than cocaine, and abusers of the drug run significant risks for an overdose or the development of an MDPV addiction.
Cathinone is a main constituent of Catha edulis, a plant native to the Arabian Peninsula and the portion of eastern Africa commonly referred to as the Horn of Africa. Folk use of this plant (in the form of fresh or dried leaves called khat) extends back for at least several thousand years. Chemists first developed synthetic cathinones in the 1920s; the manmade chemical that serves as the basis of MDPV, called pyrovalerone, was first created in the 1960s as an appetite suppressant and a treatment for people with persistent symptoms of fatigue. MDPV itself dates from the late 1960s, although it received very little notice until it emerged in the early 2000s as a “designer drug.” Drugs receive this label because illicit drug manufacturers design them or rely on them in order to avoid existing laws that prohibit certain chemical compounds. Federal law now prohibits the sale, possession or use of MDPV; as a result, any use of the drug qualifies medically and legally as drug abuse.
While MDPV is sometimes used on its own, most people encounter the drug as an ingredient in “bath salts,” the falsely named products commonly marketed on the Internet and sold in convenience stores or in specialty stores such as tobacco stores or “head shops.” Forms of these products include powders, capsules, tablets, liquids, and crystals. Methods of introducing MDPV and MDPV-containing products into the body include nasal inhalation (snorting), smoking, oral ingestion, injection into muscle tissue, intravenous (IV) injection, and use of rectal suppositories. Common doses of the drug range in size from roughly 2 milligrams to 10 milligrams or higher. Depending on the amount taken and the route of administration, the effects of MDPV can last anywhere from approximately two to eight hours.
Drug Effects and Overdose
According to a study published in 2012 in Neuropsychopharmacology, the official journal of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology, MDPV achieves its main effects in the central nervous system by significantly increasing normal levels of the neurotransmitting chemicals dopamine and norepinephrine. It also produces relatively minor increases in a third neurotransmitter, called serotonin. Dopamine increases trigger increases in the body’s subjective experience of pleasure, while norepinephrine increases trigger unusual levels of activation in the sympathetic nervous system, a network of involuntary nerves that prepares the body for rapid action in stressful or dangerous circumstances. Increases in serotonin levels can boost subjective feelings of general well-being. The ways in which MDPV increases the central nervous system’s dopamine and norepinephrine supplies closely mirror the effects of the illegal stimulant drug cocaine, the authors of the study in Neuropsychopharmacology report. However, in laboratory studies, MDPV’s effects are at least 10 times more powerful than those produced by cocaine.
In real-world terms, this means that users of the drug have considerable risks for physical side effects related to an MDPV overdose. Relatively minor reported effects of such an overdose include an accelerated heartbeat (tachycardia), an irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia) high blood pressure, involuntary muscle twitches or spasms, seizures and an unusually high body temperature accompanied by increased sweat output. Potentially fatal physical effects of an overdose can include a heart attack, brain swelling, a stroke, complete loss of lung and heart function, and a form of muscle tissue disintegration called rhabdomyolysis. Potential psychological effects of an MDPV overdose include hallucinations, delusional thinking, suicidal thinking, panic attacks, extreme paranoia, self-mutilating behaviors, and aggressive or overtly violent outbursts.
Doctors and researchers haven’t had enough time to fully explore the risks for addiction in long-term MDPV abusers. However, it’s a well-known fact that most addictive drugs gain a foothold in the body by altering normal dopamine levels. As stated previously, MDPV has the potential to alter dopamine levels much more significantly than the highly addictive drug cocaine. This means that, in all likelihood, repeated or habitual MDPV abuse presents a serious risk for the development of an ongoing addiction.
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