Synthetic Cathinones—Prevalence and Motivations for Use

  • John M. Corkery
  • Amira Guirguis
  • Duccio G. Papanti
  • Laura Orsolini
  • Fabrizio Schifano
Part of the Current Topics in Neurotoxicity book series (Current Topics Neurotoxicity, volume 12)


This chapter considers the prevalence of and motivations for use of synthetic cathinones. As part of the scene-setting, the availability, legal status, numbers of cathinones, number and quantities confiscated are reviewed. This leads to the first substantive section of the chapter—an epidemiological investigation of the nature and extent of what is known about the use of these molecules. The second major section is more qualitative in its approach to understanding motivations for the use of any drug, Novel Psychoactive Substances (NPS), and then synthetic cathinones. An examination is conducted of how cathinones may be compared to other stimulants and why particular cathinones may be preferred to others. The converse situation is then examined, what might be the motivations and reasons for ceasing to take cathinones and why this may not be a rational decision. A brief examination of the consequences of ceasing versus continued use is presented. As it is very likely that further synthetic cathinones will continue to emerge, it is important to gain a much fuller insight into what motivates or causes individuals to use or cease using these molecules, so that communities and societies can respond in appropriate ways to the varying challenges that face them and their citizens.


Synthetic cathinones Epidemiology Prevalence Reasons Motivations 



The following provided unpublished data on mephedrone which were extracted for this study: Home Office Crime and Policing Analysis Unit; Justice Analytical Services, Scottish Government; and PSNI Statistics Branch.

This chapter was supported in part by grants of the European Commission (Drug Prevention and Information Programme 2014–16; contract no. JUST/2013/DPIP/AG/4823; EU-MADNESS project). Further financial support was provided by the EU Commission-targeted call on cross border law enforcement cooperation in the field of drug trafficking—DG Justice/DG Migrations and Home Affairs (JUST/2013/ISEC/DRUGS/AG/6429) Project EPS/NPS (Enhancing Police Skills concerning Novel Psychoactive Substances; NPS).

Some of this material has been presented as an oral presentation:

John M. Corkery (presenter), Amira Guirguis, Laura Orsolini, Duccio Papanti and Fabrizio Schifano (2017). Oral presentation. An investigation into the relationship(s) between the different chemical classes of synthetic cathinones and their effects: desired, adverse and toxic. Fifth International Conference on Novel Psychoactive substances. United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Vienna International Centre, Vienna 23–24 October 2017.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors are unaware of any potential conflicts of interest. However, F.S. is a full member of the UK Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) and its NPS Committee; J.C. was a member of the ACMD’s Working Groups on Drug-related deaths (1999–2000 and 2016–7), and is currently a co-opted member of the Technical Committee (2016 to date) and NPS Committee (2009 to date). JC was responsible for producing drug statistics for the Home Office (1994–2002), acted as the UK Focal Point on Drugs’ expert on drug-related deaths and mortality related to drug use (2000–2015), and also contributed to the UK Annual Report Questionnaire to the UNODC over the period 1994–2013. The views expressed here reflect only the authors’ views and not necessarily those of the Home Office or the ACMD.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • John M. Corkery
    • 1
  • Amira Guirguis
    • 1
  • Duccio G. Papanti
    • 1
  • Laura Orsolini
    • 1
  • Fabrizio Schifano
    • 1
  1. 1.Psychopharmacology, Drug Misuse and Novel Psychoactive Substances Research Unit, School of Life and Medical SciencesUniversity of HertfordshireHatfieldUK

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