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This large group of new psychoactive substances usually come as a pill, capsule or whitish powder or crystal. They are generally classed as stimulants, and because they have a relatively short history, there is often little known about short or long term effects.
Be advised that these substances are being mis-sold as MDMA (as a pill, capsule or powder) or cocaine which greatly increases the risk of overdose. Common synthetic cathinones include N-ethylpentalone, mephedrone, methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV), methylone, mexedrone, and Alpha PVP.
The individual effects and toxicity of each cathinone are distinct. But since they are mostly stimulants they can have similar effect to MDMA or methamphetamine. But they also usually have a lower active dose which makes them easier to overdose on. A mild overdose may cause unpleasant feelings like paranoia and anxiety. People sometimes say that many of these drugs can "drop you" suddenly whereby the pleasant feelings end abruptly with unpleasant comedown feelings starting too soon. This can cause a strong desire to take more and more, which increases the risk of acute overdose or psychological distress.
The withdrawal or ‘comedown’ from cathinones depends on what cathinone was taken and how much. Common symptoms include anxiety, low mood, difficulty sleeping, irritability and difficulty concentrating. Some of these feelings continue after the drug has worn off and can last two to four days.
If someone appears unconscious or is in distress after taking a synthetic cathinone they need your help.
If they're responsive, do not leave them on their own and listen to what they have to say. Don't force them to do anything they don't want to do.
Always call 111 for an an ambulance if someone:
You may have a substance use disorder if you are:
If you decide to cut back or stop after using synthetic cathinones, you are likely to experience withdrawal symptoms. It can be very difficult for people to stop using due to the addictive properties of these drugs. Talk to a trusted friend or family member about your plan and ask them to look out for you and support you. Alternatively, call the Alcohol and Drug Helpline on 0800 787 797 for confidential, non-judgmental advice and referral to a local service provider.
If you are only ready to think about cutting back, you might want to consider buying less so you use less, delaying your first session of the day, or using a smaller amount than usual.
You may not be aware that you or your friends have a synthetic cathinone as it is sometimes used in pills or powders as a substitute for MDMA. Using a small amount of any drug initially and waiting for the full effect reduces the risk of overdosing or using too much of something that is more potent than you thought.
These drugs can create a strong desire to use repeatedly to avoid unpleasant withdrawal feelings. This increases the risk of dependence which can lead to long term harm such as organ damage.