If you or a loved one is struggling with bath salts addiction, know that you are not alone. Our team of medical, clinical, and wellness experts are here to help you break free from addiction and achieve the happy, healthy life you deserve.
Bath salts, or synthetic cathinones, are drugs that contain human-made chemicals related to the cathinone substance found in the khat plant grown in Africa. Bath salts are cheaper alternatives to cocaine and methamphetamine and some of their chemicals have been reported to be 10 times more powerful than cocaine. Find out more about the dangers of bath salts, long-term effects, and treatment options.
What Are Bath Salts?
Synthetic cathinones, more commonly referred to as “bath salts,” are addictive, human-made stimulants that are designed to replicate the effects produced by cocaine, methamphetamine, and ecstasy. Cathinone is a stimulant that comes from the khat plant grown in Eastern Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. Certain cultures enjoy chewing on khat leaves because they provide effects similar to caffeine. The problem is that people have extracted the cathinone stimulant and made it stronger to create what we know as “bath salts” today.
Bath salts are classified under a group of substances called new psychoactive substances (NPS). These types of drugs have no medical use and are nearly impossible to monitor as new synthetic chemicals are formed to circumvent U.S. government regulations. Drug dealers often discreetly market bath salts as the classic hygienic “bath salts” product, “plant food”, “glass cleaner”, and more. This is particularly dangerous because their potency and chemical compounds can vary.
Bath salts can produce feelings of euphoria and sociability by increasing dopamine levels in the brain. There are several cathinone derivatives, so scientists are still unsure of how all the chemicals in bath salts affect the brain and human behavior.
What Are Common Street Names for Bath Salts?
Popular names for bath salts include:
- Cloud nine
- Ivory wave
- Meow meow
- Pure ivory
- Snow leopard
- Vanilla sky
- White dove
- White knight
What Do Bath Salts Look Like?
Bath salts are available in powder form (as capsules) and crystal form, which resembles Epsom salts used for bathing. They are usually white or brown in color and sold in small plastic or foil packages. These substances can sometimes be packaged as common household products to conceal their true identity.
How Are Bath Salts Used?
Bath salts are usually snorted but can also be taken orally, smoked, or injected. If ingested orally, absorption is rapid with a peak “rush” at 1.5 hours, the effect lasting 3 to 4 hours, then a hard “crash”, often causing users to crave more. Snorting and injecting the drug can be especially powerful.
What Are the Short-Term Effects of Bath Salts?
Bath salts are used to achieve many of the same effects produced by ecstasy and methamphetamine. They stimulate the central nervous system, heightening alertness and producing euphoric feelings in users. Despite the temporary satisfaction they can bring, bath salts can also pose immediate damage to the mind and body with these short-term effects:
- Increased heart rate
- Increased talkativeness
- Panic attacks
- Violent outbursts
- Skin rashes
- Damage to teeth and jaw from grinding
Why Are Bath Salts Harmful?
Bath salts have a high potential for harm, as the chemical components of these synthetic drugs are difficult to trace. Even short-term use can cause individuals to become aggressive, confused, irritable, and delusional. Many people are unaware of the dose and strength before they ingest bath salts, so consuming the drug is a constant risk.
Even first time users will experience depression and have intense cravings for the drug again, often leading to addiction. Users may also experience hypertension, heart palpitations, and seizures. The negative effects of bath salts multiply with prolonged use.
Bath salts alter the brain’s chemistry and can cause people to act intoxicated, or extremely drunk. These episodes are referred to as “excited delirium.” In one extreme case, bath salts caused one user to act psychotic and bite a stranger’s face off in Miami. People who use bath salts by injecting them are also at higher risk of contracting HIV or hepatitis if they share needles.
What Are the Long-Term Effects of Bath Salts Abuse?
Prolonged misuse of bath salts can lead to addiction and health problems, such as:
- Bone pain
- Heart problems
- Liver damage
- Kidney damage
- Brain swelling
- Severe depression
- Muscle tissue damage
Individuals who are prone to mental health disorders like depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia are at greater risk for triggering these conditions if they use bath salts.
What Are the Signs of Bath Salts Addiction?
Habitual bath salts abuse can cause the brain to become chronically dependent on the drug. Bath salts addiction can lead to multiple changes in behavior, including:
- Suicidal thoughts
- Chest pain
- Poor hygiene
- Changes in appetite
- Weight change
- Nose bleeds
- Muscle tension
- Increased body temperature/chills
What Does a Bath Salts Overdose Look Like?
Due to the number of powerful chemicals that make up the drug, many of which are often unknown, bath salts are very dangerous. There are no set standards when chemists are creating each batch of the drug. Bath salts are extremely addictive and lead to intense cravings, causing users to take deadly amounts of the drug in chasing “the high.” Overdose symptoms can include:
- Extreme agitation
- Cardiac dysfunction
- Seizures or strokes
- Suicidal ideation
- Nausea or vomiting
Individuals who overdose require immediate medical attention, as the psychotic symptoms of a bath salts overdose can cause extremely aggressive behavior and often lead to suicide. Even if an individual appears to be better, their cravings will intensify after an overdose, causing them to seek out a potentially deadly amount of the drug.
How Is a Bath Salts Addcition Treated?
In order to heal from bath salts addiction, the first step is to discontinue use. This allows the body to rid itself of dangerous toxins and start recovering. During this period of detoxification, individuals may experience severe withdrawal symptoms and cravings.
While detoxing at home is possible, the psychological symptoms of a bath salts addiction can be dangerous. Because bath salts can also contain unidentified chemicals that can cause unpredictable physical and mental harm, it is best to meet with a health professional to determine whether medically monitored detox is necessary. Sometimes, recovering individuals will need sedatives or anti-psychotic medications to subdue the harmful effects of bath salts. Withdrawal symptoms from bath salts include:
- Violent behavior
- Inability to concentrate
- Intense cravings
After the body has rid itself of all toxins, individuals are better able to focus on other aspects of their recovery, such as uncovering the root of their addiction and addressing the negative behaviors it has caused. Options for bath salts addiction treatment include inpatient (residential), outpatient, and extended care programs.
Because of the impact that bath salts have on the brain, combining traditional treatment with holistic therapies focused on mental well-being can greatly benefit addicted individuals. By fostering emotional strength, mindfulness, and mental clarity, those in recovery are better prepared to overcome any future challenges that could derail their progress.
There are several therapeutic activities that can help individuals overcome their bath salts addiction. Those who miss the rush they experienced from using bath salts may enjoy the thrill of climbing rock walls, a much less risky alternative. Individuals who relied on bath salts to stay alert may benefit from sleep education, which can provide them with suggestions on how to rest more often so they feel naturally energized. Users who experienced paranoia as a result of their bath salts addiction may choose to minimize their symptoms through Spiritual Enhancement, which calms the mind and inspires mental and emotional growth.
Discover other therapeutic activities that encourage holistic healing on our Wellness page.