What Is Fake Cocaine?

'Bath Salts' Products Contain MDPV

Ivory Wave
Ivory Wave. About.com

In Europe, Australia and 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 (Bath Salts) 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 a class of drug known as a synthetic cathinones, variants of which have been used as ingredients in various bath salts products. Synthetic variants of cathinone can be much more potent than the natural khat product and sometimes very dangerous.

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. MDPV is the most common synthetic cathinone found in the systems of patients admitted to emergency rooms after taking bath salts.

What Do Synthetic Cathinones Look Like?

Synthetic cathinones usually appears 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 synthetic cathinones lose potency when mixed with a solution.

Who Uses Bath Salts?

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 Bath Salts?

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, bath salts have been known to cause:

Psychological Effects of Synthetic Cathinones

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.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, some of the reported psychological effects of MDPV and other Synthetic Cathinones include:

  • Paranoia - extreme and unreasonable distrust of others
  • Hallucinations
  • Increased sociability
  • Increased sex drive
  • Panic attacks
  • Excited delirium - extreme agitation and violent behavior

Synthetic Cathinones and Molly

Molly is a slang term used for the pure crystal powder form of 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA), which is usually sold in capsules to distinguish it from Ecstasy pills that can contain sometimes harmful additives.

However, law enforcement agencies have reported that capsules they seized that were supposed to be pure Molly actually contained methylone, a dangerous synthetic cathinone.

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?

In 2012, congress passed the Synthetic Drug Abuse Prevention Act which permanently placed 26 types of synthetic cannabinoids and cathinones into Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).

The same law, part of the FDA Safety and Innovation Act of 2012, doubled the amount of time that the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) can administratively schedule substances under its emergency scheduling authority, from 18 to 36 months.

The DEA says that because MDPV and other synthetic drugs are analogues of a drug that is on schedule I of the Controlled Substance Act, "law enforcement cases involving them can be prosecuted under the Federal Analogue Act of the CSA."


National Institute on Drug Abuse. "Synthetic Cathinones ("Bath Salts")." DrugFacts January 2016

Office of National Drug Control Policy. "Synthetic Drugs (a.k.a. K2, Spice, Bath Salts, etc.)." Fact Sheets Accessed March 2016

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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