Synthetic cathinones related fatalities: An update

S. Zaami, R. Giorgetti, S. Pichini, F. Pantano, E. Marinelli, F. P. Busardò

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


OBJECTIVE: Synthetic cathinones, more commonly known as "bath salts", are synthetic drugs chemically related to cathinone, a psychostimulant found in the khat plant. They are the first most consumed products among new psychoactive substances, which cause psychostimulant and hallucinogenic effects determining a number of fatalities worldwide. In this paper, we have systematically reviewed cases of synthetic cathinones-related fatalities analytically confirmed, which have occurred in the last few years. MATERIALS AND METHODS: Relevant scientific articles were identified in Medline, Cochrane Central, Scopus, Web of Science and Institutional/government websites up to November 2017 using the following keywords: synthetic cathinones, mephedrone, methylenedioxypyrovalerone, MDPV, methylone, ethylone, buthylone, fatal intoxication, fatalities and death. RESULTS: In total, 20 citations met the criteria for inclusion, representing several fatal cases with analytically confirmed synthetic cathinones in biological sample/s of the deceased. The death was attributed to hyperthermia, hypertension, cardiac arrest and more in general to the classic serotonin syndrome. Only rarely did the concentration of the parent drug causing fatality overcome the value of 1 mg/L in post-mortem biological fluids. CONCLUSIONS: Abuse of synthetic cathinones still represents a serious public health issue. Systematic clinical studies on both the animal and human model are lacking; therefore, the only available data are from the users who experience the possible hazardous consequences. Analytical methodologies for the identification of parent compounds and eventual metabolites both in ante-mortem and post-mortem cases need to be developed and validated. Analytical data should be shared through different communication platforms with the aim of stopping this serious health threat for drug users.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)268-274
Number of pages7
JournalEuropean Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2018


  • Bath salts
  • Fatalities
  • Serotonin syndrome
  • Synthetic cathinones

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology (medical)


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