What are cathinones?

The chemical ‘cathinone’ is a naturally occurring stimulant drug found in the plant, Khat.

Cathinones are the family of related chemicals, including cathinone and many synthetically produced chemicals, like mephedrone, methylone (M1) and MDPV. Cathinones are ‘cousins’ of the amphetamine family of drugs, which includes amphetamine itself (speed) and MDMA (ecstasy), and which have similar effects. Cathinones were sold online and in headshops as so called ‘legal highs’ until they became Class B drugs in April 2010.

  • Cathinones can cause feelings of euphoria and empathy as well as increasing alertness and talkativeness. In a situation of only recently-emerging evidence on what are the exact effects and risks each of the different cathinones, it is accepted that they broadly have a balance of effects similar to amphetamines (speed) and to MDMA (ecstasy).

What do cathinones look like?

Cathinones were originally sold over the internet as ‘legal’ alternative to drugs like speed, ecstasy and cocaine. To avoid trouble with the police, sellers marked the cathinones they were selling as not for human consumption, and sold them as plant food or bath salts.

Most cathinones are found as either a fine white, off-white or yellowish powder, but some can be brown in colour. The cost varies depending on the individual cathinone, but mephedrone, the most well know cathinone, is on average £20 – £30 a gram.