What Are Bath Salts?
Bath salts are a synthetic, crystalline powder (white or brown) that produces a stimulant effect when ingested, similar to that of MDMA (molly), meth, and cocaine. Bath salts can be swallowed, snorted, inhaled, or injected via a needle. They impact the brain by flooding it with the neurotransmitter dopamine, which affects the brain’s reward system—the system that tells us we feel good.
Bath salts are often sold in small plastic or foil packages labeled “Not for Human Consumption” online, in convenience stores, at gas stations, and in head shops. They are sometimes labeled “plant food,” “jewelry cleaner,” or “phone screen cleaner” to avoid detection by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) or local police.
Also known as synthetic cathinones, this class of drugs has one or more laboratory-made chemicals similar to cathinone.
Cathinones are naturally occurring stimulants that are found in the khat plant that grows in East Africa and Southern Arabia. Synthetic cathinones, on the other hand, are marketed as cheap substitutes for other stimulants like methamphetamine and cocaine, but they can be far more powerful and can cause serious harm.
The Legality of Bath Salts
In the early 2010s, when bath salts were first being manufactured and flooded the market, the DEA put an emergency ban on three common lab-made cathinones until officials knew more about them.
In July 2012, the DEA and the Obama Administration passed the Synthetic Drug Abuse Prevention Act (SDAPA), which classified several synthetic substances like bath salts under Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act.
Bath salts were added to a growing list of New Psychoactive Substances (NPS) or “legal highs,” which are unregulated, psychoactive mind-altering substances made to copy the effects of stimulant drugs, but offer no legitimate medical use. Other well-known NPS include synthetic cannabinoids (spice/K2), MDMA, designer benzodiazepines, and phenethylamines.
Drug sellers are constantly making new drugs with formulas different enough to get around the law. To protect the public, the government is constantly monitoring these newer formulas.
Side Effects of Bath Salts Use
Bath salts commonly cause excitement and agitation. Because the drug is synthetic, however, consuming bath salts can have negative, even dangerous side effects.
Short-Term Effects of Bath Salts Abuse
- Increased friendliness and sex drive
- High blood pressure
- Raised heart rate
- Hallucinations, paranoia, and psychosis
- Chest pain
Long-Term Effects of Bath Salts Abuse
- Mental health issues
- Osteodynia (bone pain)
- Liver damage
- Kidney failure
- Heart attack
- Suicidal thoughts
Bath Salts Abuse and Addiction
Bath salts act as a stimulant creating feelings of euphoria, happiness, and excited delirium. These effects can lead to compulsive, addictive behaviors, and even substance use disorder.
Bath salts and other synthetic cathinones or “designer drugs” may be marketed on their own or even mixed with other drugs like molly (ecstasy) without the user being aware. The only way to be sure of a particular batch’s ingredients is to test it in a lab.
Am I Addicted to Bath Salts?
The following signs can be strong indicators that bath salt substance abuse is occurring:
- Intense cravings for the drug
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when not using bath salts
- Unusual aggressive or psychotic behavior
- Prioritizing the drug use over previously enjoyed activities
Symptoms of Bath Salts Withdrawal
The withdrawal symptoms that many users experience when quitting bath salts can be both physical and psychological.
Some of the symptoms you can expect include:
- Poor concentration
- Muscle spasms
Bath Salts Overdose
Bath salts are a relatively new drug with many unidentified side effects. They are often produced in underground laboratories with unknown ingredients, so the drug can differ wildly from batch to batch. Due to these variable, unnamed ingredients, there is an inherently elevated risk of overdose.
Overdose symptoms may include:
- Agitation and violence
- Panic attacks
- Increased heart rate
- Excessive sweating
- Respiratory distress
- Suicidal thoughts
If you suspect an overdose of bath salts, immediately call 911, check if the victim is responsive, and monitor them until help arrives. In case of violent behavior, remember to clear the area of any sharp objects and keep a safe distance.
Bath Salts Addiction Treatment
The abuse of bath salts can cause life-threatening physical and psychological problems, and if addiction goes unchecked, there is a real danger of fatal overdose. While recovering from bath salts addiction is difficult, it is not impossible.
The key to recovery lies in the development of a personalized treatment plan along with the support of friends and family.
Bath Salts Detoxification
Bath salts withdrawal can be a frightening experience. If you are a bath salts addict ready to seek treatment, detoxification is a great way to begin your recovery. It’s highly recommended that you do so safely and under medical supervision to minimize the effects of dangerous withdrawal symptoms.
Bath Salts Treatment Programs
Fortunately, there are many successful treatment programs available that can help you overcome your addiction and quit for good. A combination of detox and therapy can be incredibly successful for addicts.
There are a variety of approaches including:
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy
- Dialectical behavioral therapy
- Rational emotive behavioral therapy
Bath Salts Statistics
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), out of almost 2.5 million drug abuse Emergency Department (ED) visits in 2011, 22,904 of them involved bath salts.
Bath Salt abuse only accounted for 33% of ED visits, while 15% involved bath salts combined with synthetic marijuana or marijuana, and 52% involved bath salts and other drugs.
Support for Friends and Loved Ones
Dealing with addiction is painful enough, but as a friend or family member, watching a loved one struggle can be an excruciating ordeal as well. Finding support and help for yourself will only benefit your loved one and allow you to provide much-needed emotional support on their journey. There are many addiction resources out there for you, as well.
Bath Salts FAQs
Are bath salts the same as Epsom salts?
No. Epsom salts are made from a mineral mixture of magnesium and sulfate and are commonly added to bathwater to help ease stress and relax muscles. They have no chemical relation to synthetic cathinones.
Are bath salts the same as “molly”?
No, although products sold as “molly” are often adulterated, or mixed, with “bath salts” or synthetic cathinones. Molly is a commonly-used slang term for MDMA, a drug known for its recreational use at festivals, concerts, and clubs.
What are some street names for bath salts?
Bath salts are sold under several street names to avoid the detection of law enforcement.
These street names include:
Bliss, Blue Silk, Cloud Nine, Drone, Energy-1, Ivory Wave, Lunar Wave, Meow Meow, Meph, Ocean Burst, Pure Ivory, Purple Wave, Red Dove, Snow Leopard, Stardust, Vanilla Sky, White Dove, White Knight, White Lightning, and many more.