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A new rodent study suggests that a key ingredient in “bath salts” called mephedrone has effects on the brain’s reward circuits that are comparable to similar doses of cocaine. The study offers evidence that mephedrone has the potential for abuse and addiction, the researchers say.

Dr. C.J. Malanga of the University of North Carolina School of Medicine studied mice implanted with electrodes that stimulate the brain. They were trained to spin a wheel to receive a reward, which directly stimulated the brain pathways involved in reward perception, according to UPI. The mice were given various doses of either mephedrone or cocaine. Their wheel spinning was measured before, during and after they received the drugs.

The study found the effects of mephedrone on the reward circuits in the brain were similar to those of cocaine. “As expected our research shows that mephedrone likely has significant abuse liability,” Dr. Malanga said in a news release.

The study appears in the journal Behavioural Brain Research.

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