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Bath Salts

What Are Bath Salts?

The name "bath salts" sounds innocent, but don't let that fool you: Bath salts are powerful and dangerous stimulant drugs.

Bath salts contain manmade chemicals called synthetic cathinones. They increase brain and central nervous system activity in much the same way as drugs like amphetamines or MDMA (ecstasy).

Bath salts are sold as a white or off-white powder, mostly in small plastic or foil packages. The drugs are usually snorted (sniffed up a nostril). But bath salts also can be swallowed, smoked, or mixed with a liquid and injected with a syringe.

Short-Term Effects

Bath salts can cause users to have an out-of-body experience, elated mood, or feel delirious. These effects can last up to 3-4 hours.

Other short-term effects include:

  • agitation and irritability
  • insomnia
  • dizziness
  • panic attacks
  • depression
  • suicidal thoughts
  • paranoia
  • delusions and hallucinations
  • distorted sense of reality
  • decreased ability to think clearly
  • mood disturbances and psychosis

Like other stimulants, bath salts also can affect a user's body. Some of the physical effects of bath salts include:

  • decreased muscle and body control
  • increased blood pressure and body temperature
  • chest pains
  • irregular heartbeat
  • nosebleeds
  • feeling sick and throwing up
  • seizures
  • stroke
  • heart attack
  • brain swelling

Long-Term Effects

There's a high risk that people who use bath salts will get addicted to them. People can become physically and emotionally dependent on the feeling the drugs give them. They often find that they have to take more of the drug to get the same high, and feel withdrawal symptoms when they stop. People who abuse bath salts may feel driven to do whatever they can to keep getting high, including taking risks.

Users can also develop what is called "excited delirium." When this happens, people get dehydrated, their muscle tissue breaks down, and they can go into kidney failure and die.

Long-term abuse of bath salts may cause people to have hallucinations, hear voices, feel paranoid, and develop a psychosis that resembles schizophrenia.

Other long-term effects include:

  • physical exhaustion
  • insomnia and restlessness
  • dizziness and blurred vision
  • headaches
  • reduced appetite and health problems from not eating properly
  • higher chances of getting sick because of malnutrition
  • depression and other mental health issues

Other Possible Problems

Bath salts can cause heart problems and seizures. Taking too much of the drug at one time can lead to an overdose. All these things can be deadly, even if someone only tries the drug once.

Bath salts have caused a number of deaths and been blamed for a handful of suicides and murders.

Besides the synthetic cathinones used to make bath salts, different brands can have different ingredients. Because bath salts are made in underground labs, only the people making them know what's really in them. The mix of chemicals and these unknown ingredients can cause dangerous side effects.

Bath salts also can interact with any medicines a person is taking, like antidepressants, sleep aids, or painkillers. This makes the reaction to bath salts even more unpredictable.

Two of the chemicals in bath salts (mephedrone and MDPV) are Schedule I class drugs. That means they have a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use. People who are caught with bath salts can face fines and jail time.

How Can Someone Quit?

Bath salts are very addictive, so they can be hard to quit. There's a lot that experts don't know about these drugs, but withdrawal effects are likely similar to those from other stimulants, like amphetamines. People may go through various mood problems such as aggression, anxiety, and intense cravings for the drugs. Users of bath salts who are trying to quit might feel depressed and even have suicidal thoughts.

If you think you might be addicted to bath salts, talk with a counselor or join a support group. These things can help make it easier to quit.

Avoiding Bath Salts

The name bath salts sounds harmless, but these drugs are every bit as dangerous as cocaine, meth, and LSD — and could be even more dangerous because new variations are made all the time.

Bath salts have killed people in the past and almost surely will in the future. If someone offers you bath salts, say no. Remember the risk they pose to your health and your future.

Date reviewed: February 2014