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What Is Fake Cocaine?

'Bath Salts' Products Contain MDPV

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Updated May 19, 2013

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Ivory Wave

Ivory Wave

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In Europe, Australia and recently the United States, healthcare officials and law enforcement agencies have reported increased abuse of a white-powder substance marketed as bath salts in convenience stores and specialty shops. Users snort the powder to get high, therefore the nickname, "fake cocaine."

Fake Cocaine Product Names

Some of the bath salts products that are used as fake cocaine are called Ivory Wave, Bliss, Blue Silk, Charge Plus, White Lightening, Cloud 9, and Energy 1.

Active Ingredient in Fake Cocaine

The active ingredient in the bath salts products is the designer drug methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV). It's structurally related to cathinone, an active alkaloid found in the khat plant. It is a central nervous system stimulant.

MDPV is similar to pyrovalerone, a stimulant first synthesized in 1964. Sold under the trade names Centroton and Thymergix, pyrovalerone is used as an appetite suppressant or for the treatment of chronic fatigue.

MDPV, though, is not approved for medical use in the United States.

What Does It Look Like?

MDPV is a white or light tan powder. It is sold in 500 mg bottles or plastic bags labeled "bath salts." The packages also usually say "for novelty use only."

How Is It Taken?

Users snort the white powder to get high. It is usually not injected, because MDPV loses potency when it is mixed with a solution.

Who Uses Fake Cocaine?

Law enforcement and healthcare providers in Europe, Australia and the United States report that users are mostly teenagers and young adults. The baths salts products containing MDPV are being sold in the same stores and outlets that previously sold the fake marijuana products.

What Are the Effects of MDPV?

There are currently no known scientific studies on the effects of MDPV on humans or on proper dosing. However, health officials have reported through media outlets that users of the drug report feelings of empathy, stimulation, alertness, euphoria, and awareness of senses.

The DEA's Drug and Chemical Evaluation Section, however, reports that at higher dosages, MDPV has been known to cause:

  • Excessively rapid heart rate
  • High blood pressure
  • Vasoconstriction
  • Sweating
  • Prolonged panic attacks
  • Psychosis, induced by sleep deprivation

In Europe, where MDPV has been in circulation since at least 2007 in Germany, healthcare officials report that users are "losing touch with reality" and are being treated in mental institutions.

Is MDPV Addictive?

The DEA's Drug and Chemical Evaluation Section reports that higher-dose users of the drug have reported cravings for more MDPV, one sign of developing a dependence or addiction.

Is Fake Cocaine Illegal?

MDPV is not currently a scheduled drug under the federal Controlled Substance Act. Some states have taken steps to ban the possession and sale of the fake cocaine products. Louisiana was first to do so by adding the drug to the state's Controlled Dangerous Substance Act.

The DEA says that because MDPV is a analogue of a drug that is on schedule I of the Controlled Substance Act, "law enforcement cases involving MDPV can be prosecuted under the Federal Analogue Act of the CSA."

Sources:

U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. "The Characterization of 3,4-Methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV)." March 2010.

U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, Drug and Chemical Evaluation Section. Methylenedioxypyrovalerone [(MDPV) (1-(1,3-Benzodioxol-5-yl)-2-(1-pyrrolidinyl)-1-pentanone]. December 2010.

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