Abuse Potential of Cathinones in Humans: A Systematic Review

Assessing the abuse potential of new substances with central nervous system activity is essential for preventing possible risks of misuse and addiction. The same methodology is recommended for the evaluation of the abuse potential of recreational drugs. This systematic review aims to assess the pharmacological effects related to the abuse potential and pharmacokinetics of cathinones, which are evaluated in both experimental and prospective observational studies in humans.

Materials and Methods: A systematic search of the published literature was conducted to retrieve studies that had administered cathinone, mephedrone, methylone, and diethylpropion to evaluate their acute pharmacological effects related to abuse potential.

Results: The search yielded 583 results, 18 of which were included to assess the abuse potential of cathinone (n = 5), mephedrone (n = 7), methylone (n = 1), and diethylpropion (n = 5). All four substances induce stimulant and euphorigenic effects that resemble those of amphetamines and MDMA, and their different intensities may be associated with varying levels of abuse potential.

Conclusions: Cathinone, mephedrone, methylone, and diethylpropion induce a range of desirable and reinforcing effects that may, to some extent, result in abuse potential. Further investigation is needed to minimize and prevent their impact on society and public health.

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