Synthetic cathinone derivatives are commonly considered quasi-legal alternatives for stimulant drugs, such as cocaine and methamphetamine, but some derivatives are increasingly being detected in club drug formulations of Ecstasy or 'Molly' as substitutes for methylenedioxymethamphetamine (±-MDMA). Although several studies have evaluated the psychostimulant-like effects of synthetic cathinones, few cathinone compounds have been assessed for MDMA-like activity. In order to determine their likelihood of interchangeability with entactogenic club drugs, the discriminative stimulus effects of methcathinone, 4-fluoromethcathinone, 4-methylmethcathinone, 4-methylethcathinone, 3-fluoromethcathinone, pentedrone, and ethylone were assessed in Sprague-Dawley rats trained to discriminate 1.5 mg/kg racemic methylenedioxymethamphetamine (±-MDMA) from vehicle. Methamphetamine and the cathinones 4-fluoromethcathinone, 4-methylmethcathinone, 4-methylethcathinone, 3-fluoromethcathinone, pentedrone, and ethylone fully substituted for the discriminative stimulus effects of ±-MDMA. In contrast, methcathinone produced a maximum of only 43% ±-MDMA-appropriate responding and higher doses suppressed responding. Most, but not all of the cathinone compounds tested have discriminative stimulus effects similar to those of MDMA as well as psychostimulant-like effects; however, the potency of MDMA versus psychostimulant substitution varies substantially among the compounds, suggesting that a subset of synthetic cathinones are more MDMA-like than psychostimulant-like. These findings further highlight the highly-variable pharmacology of this class of compounds and suggest that those cathinones with MDMA-like effects may also have increased use as club drugs.
- drug discrimination