What are Synthetic Cathinones (Bath Salts)?

Synthetic cathinones are manufactured stimulants chemically like cathinone, an element found naturally in the khat plant grown in southern Arabia and East Africa. Residents of those regions chew the khat plant leaves for their mild stimulant effects.

Lab-made synthetic cathinones impact the central nervous system. These synthetic stimulants are sold as inexpensive substitutes for cocaine and amphetamines, but they can be much stronger and sometimes dangerous users.

The “bath salts” nickname comes from the fact that synthetic cathinones normally are crystalline white or brown powders. Real baths salts—Epsom salts—are not psychoactive drugs.

Where are They Made?

According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, synthetic cathinones are primarily manufactured in labs in East Asia and distributed throughout the world, but especially in Europe, North America, and Australia.

What are Some Effects of Synthetic Cathinones?

Because their formulas are constantly changing to avoid legal regulation, researchers are uncertain about how synthetic cathinones affect the brain. What is known is that their chemical structure is like amphetamines, cocaine, and 3,4-methylenedioxy-methamphetamine (MDMA) and related substances, but more powerful.

Synthetic cathinone use may result in:

  • Extreme anxiety and violent conduct
  • Hallucinations
  • Heightened friendliness
  • Increased sexual urges
  • Panic
  • Paranoia
  • Raised heart rate and blood pressure

In addition to these effects, reports of death from individuals abusing drugs in this class indicate the seriousness of the risk users are taking when ingesting these products.

Some Examples of Synthetic Cathinones

The list of synthetic cathinones and cathinone derivatives is long and ever-changing. They include:

  • Dimethylcathinone—a stimulant tested as an appetite suppressant and for treatment of low blood pressure, but not widely sold.
  • Methylone—the first synthetic cathinone registered with the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs in 2005. Structurally related to amphetamines, it has been found in capsules that were supposed to be pure MDMA (Molly).
  • Pyrovalerone—a stimulant developed in Europe in the 1960s for clinical treatment of chronic fatigue.
  • Ethylone—a stimulant psychedelic like methylone.
  • 3- and 4- flouromethcathinone—stimulant drugs sold online since 2008.
  • Ethcathinone—stimulant that is an ingredient in quasi-legal “party pills” and other drugs.
  • Mephedrone—the designer drug mephedrone is also called drone, M-CAT, White Magic, and meow. Mephedrone use carries an elevated risk for overdose.
  • Butylone—a stimulant psychoactive drug first produced in the 1960s and first sold as a designer drug in 2005.
  • Methedrone—A drug sold legally in Europe and in most of the U.S, it received adverse publicity in 2009 after two Swedish men died after using it.
  • 3,4 methylenedioxypyrovalerone mdpv—synthetic derivatives first created in the 1960s as stimulants.

What are Their Street Names?

Synthetic cathinones are sold for their psychoactive effects on the recreational drug market under names such as Bliss, Blue Silk, Cloud Nine, Drone, Energy-1, Ivory Wave, Lunar Wave, Meow Meow, Meph, Ocean Burst, Pure Ivory, Purple Wave, Red Dove, Snow Leopard, Stardust, Vanilla Sky, White Dove, White Knight, and White Lightning.

There is no definitive list as new designer drugs are constantly being produced with new chemical structures to avoid regulation.

How do People Use Synthetic Cathinones?

Synthetic cathinones are normally injected, snorted, smoked, or taken through oral ingestion.

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IUPAC-Name: 2-(methylamino)-1-(2-methylphenyl)propan-1-one CAS # 1246911-71-6 Appearance: crystal Form: HCL


IUPAC-Name: 2-(ethylamino)-1-(m-tolyl)propan-1-one Appearance: powder NMR Analysis: C12H17NO


IUPAC-Name: 1-(3-fluorophenyl)-2-(pyrrolidin-1-yl)pentan-1-one NMR Analysis: C15H20FNO


IUPAC-Name: 1-(4-chlorophenyl)-2-(pyrrolidin-1-yl)pentan-1-one CAS # 902324-25-5 Appearance: crystals NMR Analysis: C15H20CINO


IUPAC-Name: 1-(4-fluorophenyl)-4-methyl-2-(pyrrolidin-1-yl)pentan-1-one, monohydrochloride Other name: 4-fluoro-α-PiHP Form: crystalline solid NMR Analysis: C16H22FNO • HCl


IUPAC-Name: 2-cyclohexyl-1-phenyl-2-(pyrrolidin-1-yl)ethan-1-one CAS # 1803168-11-7 Appearance: crystal NMR Analysis: C18H25NO

A-PiHP crystals

IUPAC-Name: 4-methyl-1-phenyl-2-(pyrrolidin-1-yl)pentan-1-one CAS # 2181620-71-1 Appearance: off white crystals NMR Analysis: C16H23NO

Ethyl-Pentedrone (NEP) crystals

IUPAC-Name: 2-(ethylamino)-1-phenylpentan-1-one CAS # 18268-16-1 Other name: NEP Appearance: crystal powder NMR Analysis: C13H19NO

MDPHP freebase

IUPAC-Name: 3',4'-Methylenedioxy-α-pyrrolidinohexiophenone CAS # 776994-64-0 Appearance: powder Form: freebase NMR Analysis: C17H23NO3 FREEBASE


IUPAC-Name: 1-(1,3-benzodioxol-5-yl)-2-pyrrolidin-1-ylhexan-1-one;hydrochloride CAS # 24622-61-5 Appearance: powder Form: HCL NMR Analysis: C17H24ClNO3


IUPAC-Name: N-methyl-1-(5-methylthiophen-2-yl)propan-2-amine CAS # 1340105-79-4 Other name: 5-MMPA NMR Analysis: C9H15NS