Table of Contents
Bath Salts Addiction, Abuse, and Symptoms

TABLE OF CONTENTS

I. The Basics

This guide explains the effects, trends, and dangers of bath salts use and provides an unbiased analysis of the medicinal and behavioral treatment methods for bath salts addiction based on current research and publicly available statistics.

Primary Bath Salts Dangers

  • Addictiveness: Because they are a fairly new drug and because of the varied nature related to how the products are made and brought to market, there aren’t a lot of studies on the specific nature of bath salt addiction. However, some research and anecdotal evidence indicate that bath salts are at least as addictive as similar stimulants. Frequent use builds up a tolerance, and users have reported an “intense urge” to use bath salts again, which is in keeping with addiction. Many people also report withdrawal symptoms after they stop using the drug.
  • Risk of overdose: Typically, bath salts are made from a variety of synthetic chemicals, including mephedrone and butylone. Seeking intoxication from these chemicals can result in enough toxin in your body to result in an overdose or death, and people have died from abusing bath salts. The risk of overdose is increased if you mix bath salts with other chemicals or inject or snort the drugs.
  • Unintended side effects: Synthetic cathinones can cause a wide range of side effects. The type of side effects and how severe they are depend in part on what the bath salts are made of and whether the cathinones are mixed with anything else. Common side effects include an overwhelming sense of paranoia, hallucinations, panic attacks, and increased desire for social activities or sex. Some people experience these side effects to a degree great enough to alter their activity, which can result in erratic, inappropriate, and dangerous behavior.
  • Legal risks: The legal ramifications of bath salts are complex. Some of these drugs are sold in stores legally under product names that imply they are plant food or some other product not for human consumption. In fact, this is how they became known as bath salts originally; they were being sold under the label bath salts. The government has attempted to crack down on synthetic drugs by making certain substances used to create these drugs illegal. Some of those substances have been classified by the DEA as Schedule I, meaning they have no medical use and present a risk of abuse and addiction. Penalties for possessing or selling Schedule I drugs vary by location, but they can include hefty fines and prison sentences.

Bath Salts Background Information

Derived From Man-made synthetic cathinones, which can include MDPV, mephedrone, and butylone
Ways Used Ingested orally, sniffed/snorted, smoked, or made into a liquid solution for injecting
Slang/Street Names for Bath Salts Bliss, Cloud Nine, Drone, Lunar Wave, Meow Meow, Ocean Burst, Purple Wave, Red Dove, Snow Leopard, Stardust, Vanilla Sky, White Knight, White Lightning, and many others
Punitive Legal Measures: Using/Possession Some of the chemicals used to make bath salts are Schedule I substances, which makes them illegal to possess or sell. If convicted of possession of these chemicals, you could face fines as high as $100,000 or more in addition to prison sentences. The length of the prison sentence depends on the jurisdiction and whether you have previous drug convictions, but it can range up to 20 years or more.
Punitive Legal Measures: Selling/Distributing Penalties for trafficking drugs are typically even steeper. They can range from 5 to 40 years in prison for a first-time offense and include a fine of up to $5 million.
DEA Drug RatingDEA Drug Rating Some synthetic cathinones are permanently or temporarily classified by the DEA as Schedule I substances
What drug paraphernalia might indicate bath salt abuse? Bongs, needles, pipes, or even e-cigarettes can all be used to ingest bath salts
Accessibility of Bath Salts To escape FDA oversight and get the product on the market, manufacturers sometimes sell these drugs in small packages that are labeled “not for human consumption.” The packages might be marked as plant food, research chemicals, or other products and appear for sale in legitimate drug or smoking paraphernalia stores, gas stations, or other shops. While the DEA and other government agencies have enacted laws and processes to curtail bath salt accessibility, this is all still true to some extent.
What Form Are Bath Salts Sold in? These drugs are typically sold in small envelope packages. They are formed into powder, crystals, capsules, or tablets.
Common Entry to Bath Salts Use Many people begin bath salt abuse as a form of recreational drug use. Synthetic cathinones are stimulants, so they can be more prevalent in the clubbing culture. Some people may use them because they hear that the substances can enhance sexual pleasure.

II. Signs of Abuse

Behavioral Symptoms of Bath Salts Usage and Abuse

How bath salts affect the brain

Bath salts research is still evolving, particularly in regard to how the substances impact the brain. Because so many different synthetic cathinones can be used to make bath salts — and because those cathinones might be mixed with all manner of other ingredients, the impact on the brain can be inconsistent and volatile.

But synthetic cathinones do share many features with known chemicals such as amphetamines, including the fact that they can cause extra energy or lead to agitation or hallucinations. It’s thought that the substances impact the brain in a similar way as these other drugs, causing extra dopamine and serotonin to build up in the brain. Those are hormones that help regulate a range of processes in your body, including fight-and-flight responses, enjoyment, and sleep. Too much dopamine can lead to feelings of extra energy and euphoria, but once the drug is gone and the dopamine diminishes, someone can be left feeling depressed and unable to enjoy things in a normal manner.

Behavioral signs of bath salts usage and abuse

One of the things that makes bath salts especially dangerous is that they are still “unknowns.” When you take bath salts, you don’t know what types of synthetic substances were included, so you can have a surprising reaction to them. On the minimal side, someone abusing bath salts might show signs of euphoria, excess energy, agitation, and even violence.

Those behavioral symptoms can appear in numerous ways, including:

  • Apparent nervousness or agitation
  • Excitement or speaking and moving quickly
  • Willingness to take risks that the person would otherwise avoid
  • Increased interest in sex, to the point of making potentially bad decisions
  • Appearing to be drunk or otherwise high to the point of being delirious

These behavioral symptoms of themselves can be dangerous given the situation a person is in when using bath salts. But bath salts can also lead to aggressive, violent behavior, and extreme paranoia. Those combinations can drive someone to act in ways that make no logical sense and lash out at anyone who might be trying to help them. Bath salts have been a factor in numerous crimes and assaults, for example.

Physical Symptoms of Bath Salts Abuse

How bath salts affect the body

Like any foreign substance, the chemicals that make up bath salts can be toxic to the human body. In the short term, bath salts can deliver a high that helps someone feel like they have more energy and can conquer the world. But the lingering physical effects, especially for those who chronically abuse bath salts, can be dangerous.

Early physical effects of bath salts

Even before tolerance is developed and addiction occurs, bath salts can have some frightening physical consequences. It can lead to increased heart rate and blood pressure, which can put someone at risk for cardiac arrest or damage. Hallucinations and panic attacks are also possible, even for first-time users.

This table illustrates the possible short-term physical effects associated with bath salts.
Short-Term Physical Symptoms
Initial (direct effects of drug, 30 – 60 min.) Euphoria
Increased sex drive
Excitement or feelings of increased energy
Sweating
Increased heart rate
Lingering (within an hour of taking the drug) Reduced control of movement
Hallucinations
Violent outburst
Panic attacks
Reduced cognitive function
Post-Use (several hours to days after use) Continued violent or erratic behavior
Paranoia
Digestive issues
Depression
Irritability
Nervousness or anxiety

Severe and long-term physical effects of bath salts

The chemicals in these substances can cause a breakdown of muscle tissue and even lead to kidney disease over time. Other ways bath salts affect the body include potentially damaging the cardiovascular system and creating a situation where the body is used to an unnaturally high level of dopamine. That can lead to addiction because the body doesn’t physically know what to do with dopamine drops to normal levels.

If someone does become addicted to bath salts, they may deal with withdrawal symptoms for a period of time. Those can include insomnia and shaking as well as mental health challenges such as depression and anxiety.

This table illustrates the possible long-term physical effects associated with bath salts.
Long-term Physical Symptoms
Casual Raised heart rate
Increased blood pressure
Chest pain
Paranoia
Hallucinations
Chronic
(Including all of the above effects for casual use)
Delirium
Dehydration
Degrading muscle tissue
Kidney failure
Withdrawal Depression
Anxiety
Tremors
Problems sleeping
Paranoia

Further Resources

Both the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the Drug Enforcement Administration offer in-depth information on bath salts and synthetic cathinones.

III. Bath Salt Usage

Bath salts abuse isn’t tracked on as many national surveys as the abuse of other known drugs, such as opioids or alcohol, are. This is in part because bath salts are relatively new. It might also be due to the fact that bath salts and synthetic cathinones are still not fully defined or regulated.

However, the DEA has tracked some information about synthetic cathinones, and other nations have included these drugs in their reporting. The statistics below help to provide an indication of the prevalence and danger of synthetic cathinones abuse.

  • An article published in The American Journal on Addictions in 2015 noted that around 1% of high school seniors had used bath salts in the previous year. Compare that with 4% of seniors who report using marijuana at least once in the previous 12 months.
  • The biggest factor in whether or not an adolescent uses bath salts is whether or not they use other drugs.
  • Use of bath salts with other drugs is also a factor among adults. In 2011, 67% of the emergency room visits related to bath salts use also involved the use of other drugs.
  • In 2009, U.S. government agencies identified four new cathinones on the market. In 2012, they identified 31, demonstrating the growth of the issue and increased accessibility of the drugs.
  • According to the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection, street pricing for bath salts ranges from $25 to $80 per package.

IV. How to Find Help

Bath salts and similar substances might seem like a harmless way to amp yourself up or experience a high, especially if you purchased a packet in a legal store. But these drugs can create unexpected reactions in your mind and body, and they can lead to addiction.

If you’re dealing with a bath salts addiction, you can get help. Find out more about bath salts rehab in our comprehensive guide.

Staging an Intervention

If you have a loved one who’s struggling with addiction, staging an intervention is often the first necessary step towards sobriety, but it’s important to be strategic and loving in your approach. Even the most well-meaning of interventions can have a negative effect if they aren’t handled correctly.

5 Tips for Staging an Intervention

1. Don’t Do It Alone. A professional interventionist is always the most qualified to guide a successful intervention. Also, rely on non-addict family and friends — especially those who have a close relationship with you or the addict.
2. Research Ahead of Time. It’s best to do plenty of research ahead of time to gather insight on the addiction and how it affects the addict. Also, be prepared with local resources for getting help.
3. Write Out Your Statement. During the actual intervention, emotions will likely be running high, so it’s best to have a statement of how the person’s addiction has impacted you and your relationship with him or her. These statements should be honest yet written from a place of love — no personal attacks.
4. Offer Help. It’s important for everyone attending the intervention to offer tangible help and support as the person works through detox and rehabilitation.
5. Set Boundaries. If the person refuses to seek help and take the next steps outlined, it’s important that they understand that everyone present will end codependent and enabling behaviors.

V. Sources