We talk a lot about Cathinones on EZ Test. But why are Cathinones becoming everyday use? And are they in the drugs you’re taking right now?

The mainstream use may be a modern phenomenon, but they’ve been around since the 1920s. Cathinones are a monoamine alkaloid found in the shrub Catha edulis and are chemically similar to ephedrine, cathine, methcathinone, and other amphetamines. It is probably the main contributor to the stimulant effect of Catha edulis, also known as Khat.

Monoamines are dopamine, noradrenaline, and serotonin and are grouped as neurotransmitters or chemicals that send a message to the brain.


Dopamine is part of the pleasure reward feeling naturally occurring in our bodies. Cocaine is excellent at increasing the body’s dopamine, attaching its chemical imprint to your dopamine transporters. That’s where the high comes from, and it’s why coke is so addictive as well as why the comedown sucks. 


Noradrenaline, also called Norepinephrine, is another neurotransmitter in the central nervous system. Norepinephrine is mainly associated with the “fight or flight” response when we feel in danger.

Both Dopamine and Noradrenaline overlap in how they work, having a combined effect on our reward and learning process within the brain, meaning they can act as a dissociate.  

A dissociate is a drug that distorts our feelings, senses of perception, and an overall feeling of disconnection or detachment from the world.

So, with all of that said, is cathinone is dopamine? Well, yes, sort of!

It’s a synthetic version of that. And it comes from the Khat plant. Khat is a green-leafed shrub chewed for centuries by people who live in the Horn of Africa and the Arabian peninsula. It has turned up in Europe, including the UK, where it has been used particularly among migrants and refugees from Somalia, Ethiopia, and Yemen in more recent years.

Khat has been documented as far back as the 13th century and found in Arab journals. Due to its stimulant effects, Khat was prescribed to treat depression and lack of energy.

Khat is a stimulant drug that contains two cathinone compounds. It affects the body by suppressing your appetite and also producing a euphoric feeling.

So is there Khat in my MDMA and Coke?

Cathinones are being found more and more in cocaine, accelerated by the pandemic. A price of a cocaine kilo doubled last year, yet the cost of the average gram remained the same. How does that make any sense?

In the hey-days of coke, a line would give you that hit, that feeling of euphoria for about 30 mins – 1hr! Then you’re down quicker than the “Big One” at Blackpool. But with modern-day cocaine, post lockdown dross, the buzz drops, the euphoric feelings dissipate. Yet, the stimulant effect of the cathinone is still in the background. Keeping you awake, giving you energy. You re-dose and re-dose again at midnight. Theoretically, you should be happy and ready for bed by 1 am. The crash should kick in, the fatigue and that feeling of tiredness. But no! You are awake, staring intently at the ceiling, hoping you’ll eventually fall asleep. None of the euphoria, nothing numb, just awake - and bored. 

Typical Cathinones

The most well-known cathinone is probably Mephedrone (methyl methcathinone / 4-MMC)

Mephedrone is a stimulant drug that was sold as M-Kat, Meow Meow, or bath salts. A Mephedrone high has been likened to the feeling of cocaine and ecstasy. Mephedrone can come in many forms, including; crystal, white off white powder, and even pills and capsules. 

Because of its stimulant effect, the euphoric feeling 4-MMC has been found in samples of cocaine; it has been used as a cheaper adulterant while also giving that feeling and buzz. Again, it’s the comedown that’s intense. Your comedown will be days, not hours, and you may experience the following;

· Broken Sleep

· Insomnia

· Low mood

· Dizziness

· Tiredness

And it's not just Cocaine – Cathinone’s have been found in tablets that have been purchased and sold as MDMA.

In September, The Loop tested four different coloured Pharoah tablets on the same day. At the same event, 50% were cathinone, 1 was MDMA, and the other contained no psychoactive substances. Additionally, Louis Vuitton pills were tested, and they contained another Cathinone 3-MMC, not MDMA. We can go on and on, repeating that many of the MDMA pills tested are cathinones, including 4-MMC, 4-MEC, 3-MMC, 4-CMC. All samples were either in pill form, powder, or crystal form.

Cathinones have become so common that if you’re a new drug user, the likeness is that you have been consuming these substances without knowing. 

Thinking that staying up awake all night is a normal part of that cocaine buzz when it’s not. This is where it’s worrying. If you have only been taking substances that are cathinone’s, how do you know when you have the “real” stuff?

You may get some pure cocaine, but it lacks the longevity you’ve been used to or that energetic feeling and the ability to stay up all night. You complain that it’s not as good as the last stuff you had. The fact is that you’ve got used to that synthetic buzz from the cathinone’s you’ve been taking!

How do you stay safe with the choices you make?

The truth is, there is no safe way to take drugs, but we can make it safer. If you have access to drug testing, then test them. That can be with re-agent testing done at home. A simple home use kit can give you that initial information. If you’re out at a club or festival and organisations like The Loop are doing on-site testing, utilise the service. They are not going to call the police on you. However, what they will do is analyze and sit down and discuss their findings with you. 

They can offer you very robust and fact-based harm minimization information to help you decide about taking your drug.