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Methcathinone Drug Guide: Abuse Potential, Effects, Use Signs

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Abuse of the drug methcathinone and other similar synthetic cathinones known as “bath salts” has increased significantly in the United States since they were introduced in 2010. Methcathinone is an illegal Schedule I controlled substance in the United States because of its dangerous effects and lack of medicinal value.

What Is Methcathinone?

Methcathinone is a psychostimulant drug derived in a lab by mixing compounds from the leaves of the khat plant and pseudoephedrine. It’s used for recreational purposes and has no medicinal value. The drug looks like a white or off-white crystalline powder. Users take it by snorting it, mixing it in a drink, or by diluting it and injecting it. It works by producing elevated dopamine levels.

Street names for methcathinone include: 

  • Bathtub speed
  • Cat
  • Crank
  • Ephedrone
  • Khat
  • Good
  • Jeff
  • Mulka

Effects of Methcathinone

Methcathinone can cause some dramatic and even dangerous effects. It can even be deadly. 

The effects of methcathinone include:

  • Increased energy
  • Euphoria or high
  • Reduced cognitive ability
  • Change in sexual function and increased sexual desire
  • Increased wakefulness
  • Empathy
  • Slurred speech
  • Dilated pupils

How Addictive Is Methcathinone?

Addiction to methcathinone usually occurs a little more slowly than addiction to some other substances. However, as with many other substances, tolerance occurs the more a person uses methcathinone, and more and more of the drug is required to experience a similar high. Once a person begins to develop a tolerance, they are at risk of becoming addicted to the drug.

Risks of Methcathinone Abuse

There are many methcathinone risks including both acute or immediate risks and chronic or long-term risks that may develop after using the drug for a long period of time. Risks can range from uncomfortable to dangerous to deadly.

Acute risks of taking methcathinone include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Increased heart rate
  • Convulsions
  • Dehydration
  • Excessive sweating
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Panic attack
  • Coma
  • Stroke
  • Death

Risks of chronic methcathinone use include:

  • Addiction
  • Depression
  • Infertility
  • Insomnia
  • Damaged heart
  • Nasal septum damage
  • Lung damage
  • Hallucinations
  • Psychosis
  • Paranoia
  • Violent behavior

Methcathinone Withdrawal Symptoms

Prolonged use of methcathinone can result in addiction. Once addicted, stopping use may result in uncomfortable and difficult withdrawal symptoms. It’s important to get professional help for methcathinone withdrawal.

Methcathinone withdrawal symptoms may include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Disturbed sleep
  • Paranoia
  • Tremors

Methcathinone Overdose

The purity and dose of bath salts or methcathinone are typically unclear to a user. Because of this, it can be difficult to know how much is a “safe” dose. It is also unclear how potentially easy it is to overdose on methcathinone.

Symptoms of methcathinone overdose may include:

  • Extreme agitation or violence
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Seizures or convulsions
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Profuse sweating
  • Stroke
  • Death 

If you suspect that someone has overdosed on methcathinone or bath salts, call 911 or get medical help right away. If the overdose victim displays violent symptoms, find a safe and secure place to protect yourself first and then dial 911.

Methcathinone Overdose Treatment

If someone has overdosed on methcathinone, they will be given supportive care and help for symptoms. There is no antidote for a methcathinone overdose. Patients who have overdosed on methcathinone may be admitted to the intensive care unit and given benzodiazepines or antipsychotic drugs, or possibly put in restraints if they are particularly agitated or violent to protect themselves and others. The medical team will monitor the patient’s hydration, heart rate, and electrolyte levels. They will also monitor the patient for rhabdomyolysis, a condition where the muscle fibers break down and release protein into the bloodstream, which can cause kidney damage.  

Methcathinone Addiction Treatment

If someone is ready to stop taking or abusing methcathinone, it’s best to get professional treatment. Quitting “cold turkey” may seem like the best way to go, but it can be very difficult physically and emotionally, which makes a successful recovery less likely. Finding a medical detox program is the best way to withdraw from methcathinone effectively. The emotional, physical support provided during the detox process helps to ensure a better chance for a successful recovery.

Treatment for addiction to stimulants such as methcathinone is available in different formats and levels of intensity. It’s ideal to find a program that offers a full continuum of care because this is the most comprehensive approach. 

A full continuum of treatment moves from an intense level of care starting with the medical detox phase. It then progresses gradually through less intense levels of treatment. A full continuum of treatment helps to position you better for a successful recovery. Stages of therapy after medical detox may include further inpatient treatment, partial hospitalization, intensive outpatient, and alumni or aftercare.

Medical Detox

Medical stabilization is the goal during the medical detox stage of withdrawal treatment. When you enter the program, you will first receive a complete medical assessment. This assessment will be used by your doctor to assess your level of addiction plus any other medical needs you may have. The assessment will include a medical exam as well as urine or blood tests to screen for drugs. 

You may also require additional medical tests, such as more blood tests, including a CBC (complete blood count), chest X-ray, ECG (electrocardiogram), and testing for other diseases.

You will begin the detox process under the care of the medical team, which consists of doctors, nurses, therapists, and other support staff. Individuals who are addicted to stimulant drugs are often also using or addicted to other substances. These may include alcohol, opioids, or other substances. Withdrawing from these substances can be very difficult and even life-threatening. 

If you have a co-occurring substance use disorder, then you will receive a personalized treatment plan that includes a medical intervention to help you withdraw from these other substances as well. 

Your treatment plan will also include behavioral therapy and emotional support. This therapy is the most important part of withdrawal treatment for stimulant drugs because addiction to these drugs is primarily emotional and psychological. 

During medical detox, you will be monitored 24/7 because stimulant withdrawal can often cause deep depression and suicidal ideation. 

Inpatient/Residential Treatment

If you have a co-occurring addiction or other medical condition, your doctor may recommend that you continue as an inpatient for a period of time after you have completed detox. While you are in the inpatient program, you will stay at the addiction treatment center and participate in a full-time structured therapy program while receiving treatment for any other conditions. 

Partial Hospitalization

If your doctor doesn’t feel that further inpatient treatment is necessary after you have successfully completed medical detox, then he or she may recommend that you proceed to a partial hospitalization program or “PHP.” This program allows you to stay at a facility with a lot more independence while still attending a rigorous behavioral treatment program to work on coping skills and address any other emotional or mental health needs.

Outpatient

Following a full continuum of care focuses on helping you adjust slowly to returning to your life outside the rehab facility while also building the skills and resources you need to cope and prevent relapsing. After you have completed the medical detox and inpatient and/or partial hospitalization phases of stimulant withdrawal treatment, the next stage is to continue treatment in an outpatient program.

Outpatient treatment still requires attending intensive therapy sessions of up to about 20 hours per week. Some programs are outpatient only. However, keep in mind that it’s ideal to proceed slowly in gradual stages from medical detox to outpatient care for the best chance of recovery and less chance of relapse.

The outpatient stage is intended to help you be accountable for your recovery and build strong coping and relapse prevention skills. This stage usually includes periodic weekly drug testing, as well. 

Alumni

Once you have completed a formal treatment program, you are then part of the alumni and have the opportunity to join program graduates during weekly support groups and social events. These events can help build new friendships and social support with others who also understand what it means to be in recovery. Having this support network can be an essential resource to help you grow and stay focused on your recovery while you adjust to life after the treatment program.

Conclusion

Methcathinone is a psychostimulant drug that can cause serious or even deadly effects. If you witness someone who has overdosed on methcathinone, contact 911 immediately. Withdrawing from methcathinone may be difficult to do successfully on your own. It’s best to get professional help to guide you through the discomfort of medical detox.



Sources

U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. Drug schedule. from https://www.dea.gov/drug-scheduling

Gershman, J.A. and Fass, A.D. (2012, October). Synthetic Cathinones. In Pharmacy and Therapeutics: A Peer-Reviewed Journal for Managed Care and Hospital Formulary Management. from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov

Methcathinone. from https://harvarddapa.org/methcathinone

Methcathinone. from https://drugfree.org/drug/methcathinone/

Methcathinone. from https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/neuroscience/methcathinone

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