Potent rewarding and reinforcing effects of the synthetic cathinone 3,4-methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV)

Addict Biol. 2014 Mar;19(2):165-74. doi: 10.1111/j.1369-1600.2012.00474.x. Epub 2012 Jul 11.


Reports of abuse and toxic effects of synthetic cathinones, frequently sold as 'bath salts' or 'legal highs', have increased dramatically in recent years. One of the most widely used synthetic cathinones is 3,4-methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV). The current study evaluated the abuse potential of MDPV by assessing its ability to support intravenous self-administration and to lower thresholds for intracranial self-stimulation (ICSS) in rats. In the first experiment, the rats were trained to intravenously self-administer MDPV in daily 2-hour sessions for 10 days at doses of 0.05, 0.1 or 0.2 mg/kg per infusion. The rats were then allowed to self-administer MDPV under a progressive ratio (PR) schedule of reinforcement. Next, the rats self-administered MDPV for an additional 10 days under short access (ShA; 2 hours/day) or long access (LgA; 6 hours/day) conditions to assess escalation of intake. A separate group of rats underwent the same procedures, with the exception of self-administering methamphetamine (0.05 mg/kg per infusion) instead of MDPV. In the second experiment, the effects of MDPV on ICSS thresholds following acute administration (0.1, 0.5, 1 and 2 mg/kg, i.p.) were assessed. MDPV maintained self-administration across all doses tested. A positive relationship between MDPV dose and breakpoints for reinforcement under PR conditions was observed. LgA conditions led to escalation of drug intake at 0.1 and 0.2 mg/kg doses, and rats self-administering methamphetamine showed similar patterns of escalation. Finally, MDPV significantly lowered ICSS thresholds at all doses tested. Together, these findings indicate that MDPV has reinforcing properties and activates brain reward circuitry, suggesting a potential for abuse and addiction in humans.

Keywords: 3; 4-methylenedioxypyrovalerone; abuse liability; bath salt; extended access; intracranial self-stimulation; intravenous self-administration; synthetic cathinone.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Animals
  • Benzodioxoles / administration & dosage
  • Benzodioxoles / pharmacology*
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants / administration & dosage
  • Designer Drugs / administration & dosage
  • Designer Drugs / pharmacology*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Drug-Seeking Behavior / drug effects*
  • Electric Stimulation / methods
  • Infusions, Intravenous
  • Male
  • Methamphetamine / administration & dosage
  • Pyrrolidines / administration & dosage
  • Pyrrolidines / pharmacology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Reinforcement Schedule
  • Reinforcement, Psychology*
  • Reward*
  • Self Administration / statistics & numerical data*
  • Self Stimulation / drug effects
  • Substance-Related Disorders / psychology
  • Time Factors


  • Benzodioxoles
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants
  • Designer Drugs
  • Pyrrolidines
  • Methamphetamine
  • 3,4-methylenedioxypyrovalerone