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What Are the Signs of MDPV Abuse?

Methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV) is a stimulant substance in the cathinone class of drugs. It was developed in the early 1960s and remained relatively obscure until the early 2000s when it became a very popular designer drug. Prior to this popularity, it was tested as a drug to treat chronic fatigue, but it was discontinued due to its potential for abuse and the development of physical dependence. Products sold in gas stations and convenience stores as “bath salts” in the early 2000s contained MDPV and other synthetic cathinones.

MDPV has no known medicinal uses and is classified in the Schedule I category, according to the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). The drug acts on the neurotransmitters norepinephrine and dopamine by blocking the uptake mechanisms for these neurotransmitters in the central nervous system. Like many stimulant substances, it produces relatively intense and short-lived effects. This results in individuals bingeing on the drug and abusing it in large quantities.

Effects of MDPV

The use of MDPV can produce numerous physical, cognitive, and psychological effects.
symptoms of mdpv use

Physical Effects:

  • Increased energy
  • Hyperactivity
  • Increased heart rate or abnormal heart rate
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Loss of appetite
  • Muscle spasms or muscle contractions
  • Nausea, vomiting, and/or diarrhea
  • Jitteriness, tremor, and symptoms that appear to mimic restless leg syndrome
  • Distortions of hearing, vision, and touch

Psychological and Cognitive Effects:

  • Euphoria, grandiose feelings, and feelings of invulnerability
  • Confusion (particularly at higher doses)
  • Hallucinations and/or delusions
  • Accelerated thought patterns
  • An increase in creative thought in some individuals, which tends to dissipate at higher doses
  • Time distortion, such that time appears to move more rapidly
  • Insomnia or difficulty sleeping
  • Anxiety
  • Increased libido
  • Suspiciousness or paranoia
  • Hostility and aggression
  • Intense cravings for more of the drug

Effects Once Use Has Stopped:

  • Anxiety
  • Apathy and depression
  • Lethargy and fatigue
  • Slowing of thoughts
  • Problems with attention and concentration
  • Overall feelings of malaise
  • Hopelessness and even potential suicidality
  • Cravings

The effects of MDPV are very similar to the effects of other stimulants such as methamphetamine, cocaine, and amphetamines. Some of the physical effects of the drug may last for up to eight hours after using small amounts of it (e.g., hypertension, rapid heartbeat, etc.).

Long-Term Effects:

  • Tolerance
  • Development of a withdrawal syndrome, similar to the withdrawal syndrome associated with most stimulant drugs
  • High blood pressure and potential cardiac issues, such as susceptibility to heart attack or stroke
  • Other potential organ damage, such as damage to the liver
  • Potential issues associated with a lack of attention to hygiene or self-care that often occurs in chronic abusers of stimulants
  • Tension or irreparable damage to professional and personal relationships as a result of having a substance use disorder
  • Potential legal entanglements as a result of use of an illicit substance
  • Financial issues associated with trying to get more of the drug to satisfy cravings
  • Increased potential to engage in criminal activities or be a victim of a crime
  • Increased potential to be diagnosed with a substance use disorder and some other co-occurring mental health disorder

Consequences of a Substance Use Disorder as a Result of MDPV Abuse

The use of MDPV by anyone represents abuse of an illicit substance. The development of a substance use disorder results from chronic abuse of a drug that leads to significant problems with functioning and/or significant distress in life. Substance use disorders are diagnosable mental health disorders that can only be formally diagnosed by a mental health clinician. The individual must meet specific diagnostic criteria in order to receive a formal diagnosis. Since MDPV is a stimulant, the formal diagnosis of a substance use disorder as a result of abusing this drug would be a stimulant use disorder as a result of MDPV abuse.
Animal research has indicated that animals will continually self-administer MDPV in a compulsive manner similar to the way they administer drugs like cocaine. Studies of individuals who have abused MDPV suggest that chronic use of the drug results in very powerful cravings for the drug that lead to:
substance use disorder as a result of mdpv abuse

  • Numerous issues controlling use of the drug
  • Significant negative ramifications that can affect work, relationships, education, and other important areas of life
  • Health and emotional issues
  • Lack of concern that drug use is negatively affecting their life
  • A tendency to engage in risky behaviors associated with their drug use
  • Significant tolerance to the drug, resulting in the person using dangerously large amounts of the drug
  • Withdrawal symptoms associated with discontinuing the drug or not getting enough of it

The withdrawal syndrome associated with MDPV appears to be very similar to withdrawal from other central nervous system stimulants. Symptoms will often include:

  • Difficulties with sleep
  • Mood swings that often issues with anxiety and/or depression
  • Irritability
  • Potential shakiness or tremors in the hands
  • Rapid heartbeat, sweating, and restlessness
  • Cravings

Moreover, individuals with substance use disorders often have higher early mortality rates than individuals who do not have these disorders as well as a greater risk to be diagnosed with some other psychological disorder. These individuals also experience:

  • Higher rates of unemployment
  • Higher rates of divorce
  • Lower levels of all-around achievement
  • More significant and complicated medical histories

Substance use disorders do not spontaneously remit. Individuals need to become involved in a formal treatment program to help them stop using their drug of choice and to develop coping strategies to address the issues that drove their substance abuse. Long-term involvement in treatment and sustained abstinence can reverse some of the effects of chronic MDPV abuse, but in many cases, there will always be long-lasting aftereffects that will not fully remit. Continued participation in treatment-related activities can help an individual adjust to the changes associated with chronic abuse of MDPV.