Updated on July 8th, 2020
With so many designer drugs out there, it’s impossible to keep track of all the new chemical combinations made in homes and clandestine laboratories. Regardless, it’s helpful to know the basics about bath salts as well as signs of abuse and treatment options, especially if you or a loved one is struggling with substance abuse problems.
What are Bath Salts?
Bath salts are synthetic psychoactive stimulants or designer drugs that are chemically related to cathinone, which is a natural stimulant found in the khat plant. Although the natural drug found in the plant provides mild stimulant effects, synthetic variations of cathinone are very dangerous and addictive.1
Epsom salts that are used for bathing purposes are a very different product than drugs marketed as “bath salts.” These drugs are categorized as “new psychoactive substances” and are often sold online and in convenience stores, sometimes labeled as plant food, jewelry cleaner, or phone screen cleaner.2 Typically, these packages are labeled with the warning “not for human consumption” but that doesn’t stop people from abusing them.
In July 2012, a federal law made it illegal to possess, use, or distribute 26 of the chemical ingredients of bath salts.3 Some sources say we don’t have enough long-term evidence to conclude that bath salts are addictive, but according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, synthetic cathinones are addictive substances that can cause the user to experience uncontrollable urges to take the drug again. Users may also experience strong withdrawal effects, including depression, anxiety, tremors, and paranoia.
What Are Bath Salts Made Of?
Bath salts are made of a variety of different ingredients, but they usually contain:
- Methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV)
- Methylone or mephedrone
- Pyrovalerone or pipradrol
In the U.S., the main synthetic cathinone found in bath salts is MDPV while in Europe, it’s typically mephedrone.
How to Identify Bath Salts
Bath salts can be a white, off-white, or yellow powder or they can be tablets or capsules. They are usually sold online and in convenience stores. Sometimes they are labeled as plant food, jewelry cleaner, or phone screen cleaner. They may even be disguised as candy, as one Florida police department recently discovered.4
How to Use Bath Salts
People usually snort bath salts, but they may also be taken orally, mixed with food and drinks, smoked, or made into a solution that can be injected. When abused, bath salts provide the user with a high that is similar to that of methamphetamine.
Using bath salts in any way is extremely dangerous and may cause unpredictable side effects. Even using bath salts just once has the potential to cause tolerance, dependence, and addiction.
Why Do People Use Bath Salts?
Bath salts are cheap substitutes for other drugs like MDMA or cocaine, making it an attractive alternative for drug users who are looking for a way to get high. If a person cannot find their drug of choice, he or she will look elsewhere and bath salts are typically easy to get.
Teens and young adults may also use bath salts as a way of experimenting with drugs or because their friends may have access to them.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Bath Salts Abuse?
Bath salts abuse is very dangerous and can result in life-threatening physical effects.5 When abused, bath salts affect the sympathetic nervous system and can result in a number of harmful physical effects including:
- Rapid heart rate
- Increased body temperature
- Chest pain
- Heart attack
Bath salts can also cause a variety of different mental effects, including:
- Panic attacks
- Suicidal thoughts
- Impaired perception of reality
- Reduced motor control
- Inability to think clearly
Several news reports have documented various incidents over the past several years involving people who were high on bath salts committing extremely disturbing “zombie-like” attacks and violent crimes.6,7 Suicidal thoughts and behaviors linked to the consumption of bath salts may even last several days after the initial effects of the drug wear off.
If you or a loved one is addicted to bath salts, it is very important that you seek help immediately, as the effects of this drug are highly dangerous and may even be deadly.
How Do Bath Salts Affect the Brain?
There is very little information available about how bath salts affect the brain, but scientists believe they are chemically similar to amphetamines, cocaine, and MDMA. Researchers believe that bath salts have the potential to be powerfully addictive and may greatly increase the tolerance of a user.
Current research suggests that bath salts cause stimulant effects by increasing the concentration of certain neurotransmitters including dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine within the nervous system.8
How Long Do Bath Salts Stay In Your System?
Generally, bath salts can be detected by a drug test for about 48 to 72 hours after use. The effects of bath salts can be felt in less than 20 minutes and may last up to four hours.
Because sellers are always creating new bath salts, it can be difficult to determine exactly how long bath salts will stay in your system. The time frame varies depending on the drug and its ingredients as well as how it is taken.
Will Bath Salts Show On a Drug Test?
Bath salts are not routinely screened for in routine urine and drug blood tests. However, there are drug tests that are specifically designed to detect synthetic cathinones and employers or potential employers may use them to determine whether or not a person has used bath salts recently.
Bath Salts Statistics
The following statistics provide a snapshot of recent trends regarding the prevalence of bath salts abuse, which has largely declined since the federal ban on these substances.
- 40 percent of people who sought emergency treatment for bath salt use suffered from psychotic symptoms, including attempting to harm themselves or others.9
- MDPV (a common ingredient in bath salts) may be up to 10 times more powerful than cocaine.10
- In 2018, one out of every 200 teens tried bath salts. About 1 percent of 8th graders, 0.5 percent of 10th graders, and 0.6 percent of 12th graders reported using bath salts at least once in the past year.11
Who Uses Bath Salts the Most?
According to the DEA, bath salts are most commonly used by teens, young adults, and college students. This may be a result of their low cost, easy availability, and the experimental nature of adolescents.
How Many States Have Outlawed Bath Salts?
In 2011, at least 28 different states had outlawed bath salts. These bans were largely in states across the midwest and southern parts of the country, although some states along the East Coast are following suit after bath salt usage has continued to trend upward.12 In July of 2012, federal U.S. law was amended, banning the drugs that are commonly found in bath salts and making them illegal everywhere in America.
Do I Need Drug Detox for Bath Salts?
Individuals who are addicted to bath salts should complete a synthetic drug detox program before enrolling in drug rehab. This is the first step to overcoming addiction and learning to thrive in a lasting lifestyle of sobriety.
During detox, clients can expect to work with a multidisciplinary treatment team who will assess their physical and mental condition to create a personalized treatment program that will provide the best possible opportunity for lasting long-term sobriety.
Medically assisted detox programs, such as the ones offered at our detox center, provide 24/7 monitoring and supervision by a medical team. This allows us to regulate each client’s progress and make changes to the treatment plan as needed.
The medically assisted drug detox process is designed to comfortably carry each client through the withdrawal process and bring them down into a stable state of sobriety. This helps prepare the client for rehab, gives them time to begin healing emotionally and physically, and provides an opportunity to start thinking clearly again without the influence of drugs and/or alcohol.
Bath salts and any other synthetic drugs have the capability to destroy the lives of those who abuse them and everyone around them. Get help for your substance abuse today by enrolling in a safe, comfortable drug detox program at Briarwood Detox Center.