"Bath Salts" act like Ecstasy in our brains

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The last few years have seen the appearance of a number of drugs sold under the false flag of "bath salts" or "plant food". Generally mephedrone and methylone, their abuse has lead to a number of hospitalizations in the last year. And that's led to increased pressure to understand how they work, and just how safe they really are.

A new report published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology has discovered that these designer drugs are similar to MDMA, better known as Ecstasy. Classed as amphetamines, mephedone and methylone actually work the dopamine and serotonin transporters in a similar way to MDMA.

The differences start to appear in high doses. All three drugs induce hyperthermia, but it's far more severe with MDMA. Even more interestingly, MDMA is linked to long-term depletion of serotonin, which the designer drugs aren't. While this is all in rat models, it does appear that in some instances these new "legal highs" might be safer than the traditional ones.