Synthetic cathinones have become increasingly available as drugs of abuse. Distribution of these drugs is made possible by altering the chemical structures of prohibited cathinones and marketing them under misleading labels. Very little is known about the relative reinforcing effectiveness of new synthetic cathinones relative to known drugs of abuse.
We examined self-administration of three second-generation synthetic cathinones: alpha-pyrrolidinopentiophenone (alpha-PVP), 4-methyl-N-ethylcathinone (4-MEC), and 4-methyl-alpha-pyrrolidinopropiophenone (4-MePPP) relative to methamphetamine.
Male, Sprague-Dawley rats, implanted with intravenous catheters, were trained to self-administer methamphetamine (0.05 mg/kg/injection) under a fixed-ratio schedule. Following training, various doses of methamphetamine (0.006-0.1 mg/kg/injection), alpha-PVP (0.0015-0.1 mg/kg/injection), 4-MEC (0.1-3.2 mg/kg/injection), or 4-MePPP (0.1-0.8 mg/kg/injection) were available for self-administration in separate groups, followed by a behavioral-economics evaluation of the reinforcing effectiveness of each drug.
For all drugs, at least one dose functioned as a reinforcer. Alpha-PVP and 4-MePPP maintained the highest numbers of infusions per session and both were more effective reinforcers relative to methamphetamine. 4-MEC and methamphetamine were not significantly different in terms of infusions per session or reinforcing effectiveness.
Emerging synthetic cathinones whose primary pharmacological mechanism is to block dopamine uptake but with little effects on monoamine release or serotonin uptake may have a greater degree of abuse potential compared with known abused stimulants.