Methylone, sometimes abbreviated as MDMC, is an illicit drug that has been sold under the label of bath salts, Molly (suggesting that it is a potential substitute for ecstasy), MDMCAT, and numerous other street names.
There is an injectable corticosteroid that is used medicinally for the treatment of arthritis and allergic reactions that is sold under the brand name of Methylone, but this is not the same drug.
MDMC is a potentially dangerous drug of abuse.
What is the Classification of MDMC?
MDMC is a synthetic or man-made drug that is similar to natural occurring amphetamine substances like the cathinones that occur in the khat plant found in parts of Asia (Catha edulis). This plant has been used by people who live in the area where it naturally occurs as a stimulant for many years.
The substance was first artificially synthesized in the 1990s. It was designed to act as antidepressant medication, but it did not fulfill its potential in this capacity.
Is MDMC Legal?
Methylone is classified by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration as a Schedule I controlled substance. This means that the drug cannot be legally obtained under any circumstances by private individuals and cannot be prescribed for any medical reasons.
Anyone distributing or using the substance is subject to prosecution unless they have special permissions from the United States government to obtain it and use it (most often, for research purposes).
Is Methylone the Same as Ecstasy?
The chemical structure of methylone is similar to amphetamines like methamphetamine and ecstasy (Molly); however, the drug is not the same as ecstasy.
How is Methylone Used?
The most common way to abuse methylone is to snort the powder. However, people can take it in any number of ways, including swallowing it, mixing it with water or another substance and injecting it, smoking it with other drugs like cannabis products, or even using it rectally.
What is its Mechanism of Action?
Methylone use results in a release of the neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine.
The drug appears to increase the amounts of these neurotransmitters in the brain by both facilitating their release and blocking their reuptake back into the neurons once they are released and have performed their functions.
What are its Effects?
Descriptions from individuals who abuse the drug indicate that its effects are similar to methamphetamine (crystal meth) and MDMA (ecstasy or Molly). The effects that most abusers report include:
- A rush of euphoria
- Increased gregariousness or sociability
- A rush of energy
- Increased sex drive
How Fast do the Effects Occur?
The effects of the drug depend on the method in which it is abused. Smoking it will bring on effects the quickest, followed by injecting it, then snorting it, and then using the drug orally.
If the drug is ingested orally, it still has a relatively rapid absorption rate. Feelings of euphoria occur within 90 minutes and last for up to four hours.
Feelings of increased energy and euphoria will peak within a few hours. The peak is followed by a long-lasting crash or comedown that can last up to eight hours or more.
Are There Adverse Effects?
There are many potential adverse effects of using methylone. This long list of negative effects resulted in it not being used medicinally as an antidepressant or for other medicinal reasons.
The following are short-term, less serious side effects of abuse:
- A rapid increase in heartbeat and blood pressure
- Chest pain
- Appetite loss
- Irritability, agitation, and hyperactivity
In addition to the immediate and less threatening adverse reactions listed above, which are common manifestations of short-term abuse, there are long-term effects of using methylone that can be very serious.
Chronic use of the drug can lead to significant adverse reactions that may not fully resolve even with continued abstinence.
- Problems with blood circulation as a result of chronically increased blood pressure
- Very sharp increases in body temperature that can lead to potential brain damage
- Muscle spasms and damage to muscle tissue that can lead to serious issues
- Problems with control of the bowels
- Kidney failure, liver damage, and/or other cardiovascular issues
- Increase the potential to develop a stroke
- Extreme periods of uncontrollable aggression
- Severe anxiety and/or panic attacks
- Serious psychotic behavior that can include hallucinations and delusions (most often of a paranoid nature)
- Seizures, which can lead to brain damage or be potentially fatal
Any substance that can produce psychosis or seizures is a potentially dangerous substance.
The potential for an overdose with methylone is significant. There are documented fatalities associated with overdose of the drug.
Deaths associated with an overdose of MDMC often occur as a result of cardiac arrest, seizures, or using methylone in conjunction with other dangerous substances like opioids, stimulants, and other drugs.
Who Abuses Methylone?
The primary users of methylone are younger individuals who cannot legally obtain certain drugs like alcohol, cannabis products where they are legal, or other drugs. Substances containing methylone are often offered over the internet.
According to the Monitoring the Future study, the abuse of drugs labeled as “bath salts” has remained relatively low among individuals in middle school and high school since 2015 (less than 1 percent) following a peak in 2009 to 2011.
There are some indications that there might be a recent minor upsurge in the use of these drugs, but as of yet, this trend is not confirmed.
Does the Drug Produce Physical Dependence?
The research on the potential of the drug to produce physical dependence is mixed. However, it does appear that individuals who use the drug for lengthy periods of time develop tolerance to its effects and need more of the drug to get the effects that they got with lower doses.
If withdrawal symptoms do occur with extended abuse of the drug, they are most likely similar to the withdrawal syndrome associated with discontinuing other stimulants.
- Lethargy and fatigue
- Sleep difficulties that can consist of insomnia or hypersomnia (increased sleeping and drowsiness)
- They experience vivid and unpleasant dreams
- Issues with physical constitution, such as psychomotor retardation (feeling slow or “stuck in the mud”) or psychomotor agitation (irritability, jitteriness, and hyperactivity
- Increased appetite and potential weight gain
- Significant dysphoria (negative mood states, such as apathy, depression, malaise, and similar feelings or having mood swings)
Treatment for Withdrawal
There are no specific medications that are used in the treatment of withdrawal from MDMC.
Physicians addressing withdrawal from methylone may administer medications that address the specific symptoms the person is displaying. For example, those experiencing significant cravings could be given drugs like ReVia (naltrexone) whereas those dealing with lethargy or sleepiness might be given a very mild stimulant like Provigil (modafinil).
Treatment for Abuse
The drug is a Schedule I controlled substance which means that anyone suspected of using it should be considered abusing it.
In addition to addressing any potential signs of withdrawal, the person needs to become involved in a comprehensive substance use disorder treatment program.
- Assess all areas of functioning (psychological, emotional, physical, and social).
- Develop a treatment plan to address the issues discovered in the initial assessment.
- Provide formal substance use disorder therapy and support groups.
- Address any co-occurring mental health conditions uncovered in the initial assessment.
- Continue the use of medically assisted treatments as appropriate.
- Address any polysubstance abuse issues.
- Ensure participation in the program for a sufficient length of time.