Tox Tuesday: MDPV, or ‘Monkey Dust’

September 11, 2018

Police in parts of the United Kingdom are reporting an increase of drug users taking “Monkey Dust,” a substance associated with episodes of paranoia, resistance to pain and violent assaults.

Monkey Dust, scientifically known as methylenedioxypyrovalerone or MDPV, is a form of bath salts, or a synthetic cathinone. Cathinone is a central nervous system stimulant that is also an active component of the khat plant, which is sometimes chewed on for its mild stimulant effects in East Africa and southern Arabia. In its manmade drug form, the effects are far more potent.

MDPV is also one of many new psychoactive substances (NPS), mind-altering substances that trouble authorities by having formulations that change almost faster than they can be outlawed.

Though the umbrella of synthetic cathinones is illegal in the United Kingdom, police and health authorities in Staffordshire are reporting “almost daily” encounters with users of the drugs in the midst of violent, psychotic episodes.

“When you are trying to restrain them it’s like you are dealing with someone who thinks they are the Incredible Hulk,” PC Rich Frost told Sky News. “The strength is unbelievable.”

Incidents involving the drug have spiked over the summer, with the Staffordshire Police reporting 950 cases in the past three months — more than 10 a day.

MDPV causes hallucinations and severe paranoia in its users, who often act as if they are being pursued. It can cause chest pain, elevated heart rate and high blood pressure, and has been reported to induce seizures, heart attacks and strokes. MDPV can be addictive and deadly.

It’s still uncertain to what degree MDPV and other synthetic cathinones impact the brain, but they’ve been chemically compared to other stimulants like amphetamines, cocaine and MDMA. Some research suggests MDPV may be up to 10 times more powerful than cocaine.

The effects of the drug can last two or three days, and treatment can require sedation if the patient is agitated enough. It can be injected, snorted, smoked or ingested as a whitish powder. Symptoms can occur after a dose of three to five milligrams, so combined with its affordability in areas where it is prevalent, this makes it dangerous to vulnerable populations.

Police in Staffordshire are urging people to avoid the drug, and to seek treatment if they feel they may have become addicted.

Neogen offers a qualitative test kit design to screen for multiple other synthetic cathinones. See our website for more information.