Impact of common clandestine structural modifications on synthetic cathinone “bath salt” pharmacokinetics

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Since 2009, the synthetic cathinones (“bath salts”) have risen in popularity as drugs of abuse. However, there are a paucity of studies that have determined the impact of functional group modifications in the synthetic cathinone chemical structures on plasma and central nervous system (CNS) pharmacokinetics. In the present study, we investigated the in vivo plasma and CNS pharmacokinetics of three synthetic cathinones whose structures differ by lengthening of the α-alkyl chain: methylone (-CH3), butylone (-CH2CH3), and pentylone (-CH2CH2CH3). Male Sprague-Dawley rats were treated with a 20 mg/kg subcutaneous dose of the individual synthetic cathinone. Blood samples were obtained at specific times from a jugular vein cannula over an 8 hour period. Over a separate three-hour period, CNS samples were obtained using a microdialysis cannula surgically implanted into the lateral ventricle. In the plasma, pentylone, with the longest α-alkyl chain, displayed the highest Cmax and AUC0–∞, and the longest t1/2. Decreasing the α-alkyl chain length as in butylone and methylone significantly decreased the Cmax, AUC0–∞, and t1/2. The plasma pharmacokinetic values are consistent with the greater lipophilicity associated with α-alkyl side chain lengthening. Conversely, in the CNS, methylone and butylone displayed higher Cmax and AUC0–∞ values than pentylone. These contrary findings in the CNS and plasma demonstrate that lengthening of the α-alkyl chain of methylone, butylone, and pentylone yields differential pharmacokinetic properties in the CNS as compared to the plasma.HIGHLIGHTSAdding α-methyl groups increase synthetic cathinone plasma Cmax, AUC0–∞, t1/2.Adding α-methyl groups decrease synthetic cathinone CNS Cmax, AUC0–∞, t1/2.The CNS has greater exposure to the synthetic cathinones as compared to the plasma.

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