Bath Salts Addiction: Everything You Need to Know

This drug made headlines when a series of videos showed its horrifying effects. But what are bath salts, why are they so addictive, and how can addicts get help?

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Before 2010, bath salts were a relatively unknown drug in America. It wasn’t until several shocking videos surfaced on YouTube, documenting people under its influence, that the drug became well-known.

At that point, bath salts stories turned into a national craze. Dozens of news stories appeared, discussing the drug and its effects. People stood around water coolers everywhere discussing the now-mythical drug and the violent videos they’d seen.

“Did you see that one video of the naked guy on bath salts?”
“I heard it turned one person in Florida into a cannibal.”

Almost a decade later, the news stories and viral videos seem to have subsided. But, bath salt addiction remains a problem in the United States.

In 2016, nearly 400 people reported to the ER for a bath salt overdose.

If you are addicted to this drug or want to learn more about it, keep reading. This article discusses what it is, why it’s so addictive, and why it carries such abnormal side effects. We also outline some bath salts addiction recovery options like detox and rehab, to help addicts and their families find support.

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Bath Salts Addiction Information

What are Bath Salts?

This drug’s scientific name is synthetic cathinones. They were developed to mimic natural cathinones, which are organic chemicals found in the Khat plant. This plant grows in Africa and the Middle East, where its harvested and sold as an herbal stimulant. There, people chew it for recreation like chewing tobacco. The drug gives off a mild stimulant effect, similar to coffee.

But, cathinones are illegal in the United States and most parts of Europe. So, drug manufacturers were forced to create synthetic versions of the chemicals to make drugs with similar effects. These drugs are what we know as bath salts.

Synthetic cathinones are far stronger than the organic version. They have powerful stimulant effects similar to crystal meth, cocaine, and PCP. This drug is known to be highly addictive and, as many viral YouTube videos show, have very dangerous side effects.

Here’s a brief explanation of what bath salts are and why they’re so dangerous

This category encompasses a number of different chemicals:

  • Buphedrone
  • Mephedrone
  • Methylone
  • Methcathinone
  • Bupropion
  • Pyrovalerone
  • Alpha-PVP (Alpha-Pyrrolidinovalerophenone)
  • MDPV (Methylenedioxypyrovalerone)

Each of these chemicals is similar, although they have varying effects on the brain and body. A bag of bath salts purchased on the street may contain any combination of these chemicals.

It’s important to note that this list is not complete. As regulations grow tighter, drug manufacturers continue to develop new types. It’s nearly impossible for the government to keep up with the new drugs that pop up on the streets every year.

Bath salts come in many different forms.

Remember:

They are manufactured and sold illegally. Therefore, the drug’s appearance ranges depending on the maker. There are no quality or production standards on the black market.

Typically, the drug comes in brown or white crystals, similar to crystal meth. These crystals are occasionally dyed light blue, pink, purple, or green. Sometimes, it’s sold as a powder made from crushed-up crystals.

When sold on the street, it usually comes in a plastic Zip-loc bag. When sold in paraphernalia shops (which is less rare these days, but still occurs), it’s sold in foil packaging, similar to the drug K2. The packaging is sometimes labeled as “Bath Salts,” but may be labeled as “Plant Food,” or “Jewelry Cleaner,” to disguise its contents.

Pictures of bath salts are available on the Drug Enforcement Administration’s website: Drug Images.

The drug gets its name from the products that it resembles. While they can’t actually be used to add a sweet fragrance to bathwater, they do resemble the type of products sold in bath stores.

Bath salts are consumed using many different methods. Some people eat them. Others snort them. Occasionally, the drugs are smoked or boiled down and injected.

Oftentimes, users take the drug as a less-expensive substitute for party drugs like MDMA. Therefore, they usually start by eating the drug. However, if they build up a tolerance and continue to use it, they might eventually resort to injecting the drug to feel greater effects.

Prior to 2011, these drugs were available in many small specialty stores. Incense shops, marijuana paraphernalia shops, and even gas station convenience stores sold them. But, the federal government cracked down and made many of their ingredients illegal. Ultimately, this made them far less available in the United States.

Since then, it’s increasingly rare to find bath salts in retail stores. However, versions of this drug are still bought and sold on the black market. Users can purchase bath salts on the street and online through international websites.

Bath salts go by a variety of different names on the black market. Here are just a few of them:

  • Bliss
  • Meow Meow
  • White Lightning
  • Blue Silk
  • Cloud Nine
  • White Dove
  • Drone
  • Stardust
  • Flakka
  • Ivory Wave
  • Red Dove
  • Lunar Wave
  • Meph
  • Ocean Burst
  • Pure Ivory
  • Purple Wave
  • Snow Leopard
  • Vanilla Sky
  • White Knight

Some of these slang terms come from brand names. “Meow Meow,” for example, is a popular mephedrone-based bath salt. However, the name is sometimes used as a catch-all term for any synthetic cathinone.

Are you or a family addicted to bath salts? Learn how our Drug Rehab Program may be able to help you overcome your habit.


Are the Bath Salts Drug the Same as Bathtub Salts?

No. This is a common point of confusion. Bath salts (the drug) are not actually bath products.

In fact, they’re quite the opposite. Whereas bath crystals sold at cosmetic stores usually have a sweet fragrance, this drug has a strong, unpleasant odor. Some former users have described it as sour, bitter, or similar to sulfur. It gives off an especially bad smell when smoked.

The only thing that these two substances have in common is their appearance.


Your Brain on Bath Salts: Why This Drug Causes So Many Horror Stories

So, why is this drug linked with such horrific behaviors as cannibalism? Why are there videos that show people on bath salts walking around like naked zombies in public?

Well, this drug has severe effects on the brain. That’s why.

As a psychostimulant, it belongs to the same category of drugs as cocaine and crystal meth. These drugs stimulate the brain, generating all kinds of activity within it. As opposed to depressants like alcohol or heroin which make the user slow and tired, these drugs make the user wired, alert, and full of energy.

This rush of energy occurs because the cathinones generate an enormous amount of dopamine in the user’s brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter (brain chemical) that makes us feel happy and energized. Usually, the brain produces this chemical to reward us for doing things that are good for our survival like eat or make love.

Bath salts and other drugs, however, generate an abnormal amount of this chemical. They cause our body to produce far more of it than we’d be able to on our own. Because the body isn’t equipped to process the amount of dopamine that bath salts generate, it has strange effects on our mind and behavior.

Want to know more about how bath salts affect the brain? Check out this video from PBS NewsHour.

As was pointed out above, meth and cocaine are both psychostimulants. But, these drugs are only a fraction as effective as cathinones.

And, bath salts combine both of their effects, which seems to make them some kind of super drug.

Let us explain:

Crystal meth and cocaine have slightly different mechanisms of action. While crystal meth generates an enormous supply of dopamine in the brain, cocaine does not. 

Instead, cocaine prevents the brain from recycling excess dopamine. When this surplus is unable to get recycled, it builds up in the brain’s synapses and causes the user to get high.

Bath salts provide both effects. They generate an unnatural supply of dopamine and prevent the brain from absorbing and recycling any of it. In other words, the brain is essentially flooded with dopamine. There’s hardly another drug on the market that produces such an overwhelming effect in the human.

On top of that, bath salts are much cheaper than meth or cocaine. Therefore, users tend to take this drug in much higher quantities than other drugs. Plus, a single hit of bath salts produces effects that may last several days. This makes it a very cost-effective (yet exhausting and dangerous) way to get high. 

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The Dangers of Bath Salts: Risks and Side Effects

The risks associated with this drug are well-documented. Much like methamphetamine, the drug is known to cause severe paranoia. In some cases, it can drive users into a state of drug-induced psychosis.

There’s nothing healthy about sending the brain and Central Nervous System into the type of dizzying spiral that this drug causes. A single dose can cause a range of negative symptoms.

Here are some of the various side effects of bath salts:

One of the reasons why people use bath salts is that the drug causes euphoric feelings. Much like cocaine and other stimulants, it makes them feel high. This high may last anywhere from a few hours to several days.

During that time, their perception is intensified. They may notice things that they wouldn’t usually notice. This is because bath salts cause the body to produce more dopamine. The flood of dopamine triggers activity in the part of the brain responsible for alertness. A more alert person is able to see and hear things that they might otherwise overlook.

However, there’s a thin line between alertness and anxiety. In many cases, this drug pushes users over that line. Oftentimes, it results in paranoia, panic attacks, and hallucinations. Many bath salt horror stories involve users seeing and hearing things that aren’t really there. When this occurs, the user may harm themselves or others.

Bath salt usage is associated with hyperthermia, or an extremely high body temperature. Overdose patients have shown temperatures as high as 107 degrees Fahrenheit.

Scientists are still speculating on why this side effect occurs. Some speculate that stimulants like bath salts and cocaine cause hyperthermia by inhibiting the body’s ability to cool itself. When it can’t regulate its own temperature, the body is unable to adjust its temperature based on heat. Therefore, If someone overdoses on this drug in Florida or another warm state, they may run the risk of overheating.

Whatever the cause. Hyperthermia is an unhealthy condition. If left untreated, it can lead to heatstroke and organ failure.

Like all stimulants, bath salts speed up the body’s Central Nervous System (CNS). This system regulates most of our other organs including the heart and lungs.

As the CNS speeds up, the respiratory system and circulatory system speed up as well. The lungs breathe faster and the heart pumps blood at a quicker rate. This is why people tend to breathe heavy and get flushed in the face when they use cocaine or other stimulants.

Sometimes, a sped-up respiratory system can be healthy. When exercising, for example, we breathe in more air to supply our bodies with more oxygen. But, bath salts cause the blood to pump at an unsafe level. If the heart and lungs are forced to work too hard, they can shut down.

In a worst-case scenario, overdosing can lead to a heart attack or lung failure.

Bath salts are associated with kidney stress. This is due to the fact that synthetic cathinones are highly toxic chemicals. When the body recognizes intrusive substances like these, it works swiftly to get them out.

The kidneys are one of the main organs involved in flushing out toxic waste. It filters the blood to ensure that everything flowing through the body is healthy.

Clearly, this drug makes the kidneys work overtime. It’s possible for cathinones to put so much stress on the urinary system that the kidneys shut down entirely. This is a frequent occurrence in bath salt overdose cases. 

It’s common for stimulants to cause seizures, especially if the user is predisposed to epilepsy or a similar disorder.

Seizures occur due to sudden, unregulated electrical activity in the brain. When someone experiences a seizure, their brain sends out a range of untethered signals. These signals can affect their ability to speak or move. They can also drive the person into an unconscious state.

It’s not surprising that bath salts cause seizures. This drug generates an amount of brain activity unmatched by nearly any other drug. Because the human brain is unequipped to deal with all of these signals, this excess activity can easily become a problem.


Can You Die from Bath Salts?

Yes. It’s 100% possible for users to suffer a fatal overdose on bath salts. Many people have died from using this drug.

Overdoses are particularly common among people who inject the drug. This method sends the chemical directly into their bloodstream and makes it more powerful. Unfortunately, this method can send the body into a state of shock—shutting down the heart, brain, and liver.

One case study published in Emergency Medicine News, for example, describes the story of a man who died within 42 hours of injecting the drug. According to the author, the man experienced cardiac arrest, liver failure, and renal failure before dying in the ER.

Unfortunately, these stories are all too common among people who take the drug.


Are Bath Salts Illegal?

As of 2017, synthetic cathinones are categorized as a Schedule I drug by the U.S DEA. This puts them in the same legal class as drugs like heroin, cocaine, LSD, and ecstasy.

Therefore, in addition to mental and physical side effects, bath salts can also have legal side effects in your life.

The DEA regards each cathinone differently. Some types of bath salts carry higher sentences than others. But, the general sentencing guidelines are as follows:

A first-time possession offender faces up to 1 year in prison. Their charge may be accompanied by a fine up to $1,000.

It’s important to remember that black market bath salts are often cut with other substances. If a drug dealer mixes heroin, fentanyl, or MDMA into their batch, the user is technically in possession of these substances as well. The DEA will run a drug test to identify exactly what’s in the batch, and the user could be charged accordingly.

If someone is caught with bath salts for a second time, they face a minimum sentence of 15 days in prison. They also face a maximum prison sentence of 2 years and a fine up to $2,500.

Third-time offenders face up to 3 years in prison. They may also receive a fine as large as $5,000.

If caught selling bath salts, individuals face up to 20 years in prison. If they make a sale that results in someone’s death or injury, they face life in prison. This charge is accompanied by a fine as large as $1 million.

And, the individual doesn’t even have to be caught selling the drug to get a trafficking charge. If law enforcement determines that they have the intent to distribute the drug, they can be charged accordingly.

Second-time offenders face up to 30 years in prison. If they make a sale that results in a bath salts overdose, they face a life sentence. Furthermore, they may receive a fine as large as $2 million.

Again, they don’t have to be caught selling the drug to be charged with trafficking. The Drug Enforcement Administration may use evidence such as packaging materials and large amounts of cash to charge someone with trafficking intentions.

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Drug Comparisons: How Do Bath Salts Compare to Other Substances?

What’s the difference between this drug and other powerful drugs? How do its effects compare to those of cocaine, crystal meth, and Flakka?

This section offers a few interesting drug comparisons.

PCP, also known as angel dust, is a psychedelic dissociative drug. Like bath salts, this drug is also known to cause hallucinations and psychotic episodes.

There have been several widely publicized incidents involving people high on PCP acting out in public. This factor has drawn many comparisons between PCP and cathinones. As one attorney said in an interview about bath salts, “It’s like PCP on crack.”

It’s tough to distinguish the exact differences between these two drugs, mostly because it’s hard to determine their ingredients. When sold on the street, both PCP and cathinones contain a wide range of different chemicals. So while the two drugs have similar effects, their chemical makeup is very different.

Both of these drugs are stimulants and their effects are somewhat similar. In fact, some people even refer to bath salts as “fake cocaine”.

As was pointed out above (see: The Equivalent of Taking Meth and Cocaine at the Same Time), this drug’s mechanism of action is similar to that of cocaine. Both drugs inhibit the brain’s ability to recycle dopamine. This allows the user to get the maximum amount of pleasure from the dopamine their brain generates.

However, experts are quick to say that this drug is far more dangerous than cocaine. While coke is a deadly drug that causes all kinds of negative side effects, bath salts are 10x more powerful. Therefore, they carry a much higher risk of heart failure and other health effects.

These two drugs also share many similarities. They both provide a significant dopamine rush and make the user feel extremely high. Also, both drugs are associated with paranoia, hallucinations, and psychosis.

But, some experts peculate bath salts are more addictive than crystal meth. Certain studies show that rats became much more dependent on the former than the latter.

These drugs are sometimes confused, as “salt” is one of Xanax’ street names.

However, these two drugs are vastly different. Whereas bath salts are a stimulant, Xanax is a benzodiazepine with sedative effects. Someone who takes cathinones feels energetic and alert, but Xanax users feel sedated and relaxed.

Flakka is a drug that falls under the bath salt umbrella. Like other cathinones, users could legally purchase this drug up until a few years ago. It was sold in gas stations, convenience stores, and incense specialty shops.

This type of bath salt contains the synthetic cathinone alpha-PVP. However, when sold on the street, it may contain any number of other ingredients.


Bath Salts Drug Interactions

One of the most dangerous things about this drug is that users never know what they’re actually getting. Since the drug is unregulated by the FDA, dealers are able to include anything they want in a batch. Oftentimes, they cut it with other drugs like fentanyl or meth to make it more powerful and earn returning customers.

This drug is dangerous by itself. However, it’s far more dangerous when other drugs are mixed in. It’s also quite dangerous for users to take this drug with other drugs already in their system.

Here are a few specific interactions to avoid:

Both of these drugs are powerful stimulants. They both speed up the Central Nervous System. As a result, they put severe stress on the heart, lungs, and other organs. Anyone who uses both at the same time puts themselves at high risk of overdose. A stimulant overdose can lead to lung failure, heart attack, liver failure, and other dangerous side effects.

Mixing these two drugs can be fatal. The mixture puts severe stress on the brain and other organs. A person who uses both of these drugs may face any number of negative side effects including seizures, heart failure, liver failure, and more.

Contrary to popular belief, these two drugs aren’t the same. However, many people use them at the same time. They are both popular “club drugs” that allow people to stay up for many hours. In fact, studies show that most Molly contains traces of bath salts in it. Therefore, many people unknowingly mix these drugs.

This combination can be potentially fatal. The main risk is that people take far larger amounts of Molly than they do cathinones. If someone takes a bath salt/MDMA cocktail without knowing it, they may ingest a dangerous amount of cathinones. This increases the risk of heart, brain, liver, and lung problems.

It’s never a good idea to mix stimulants with alcohol. The mixture increases the negative effects of both drugs. When someone uses cocaine and alcohol, for example, they put severe stress on their pulmonary system. This is why so many people (ex: John Belushi) overdose on a coke/alcohol combo.

The same goes for bath salts. When mixed with booze, the drug’s effects are heightened. They’re at a higher risk of overdosing than they would be otherwise.


Bath Salts Addiction Recovery: How to Find Help

Are you or a loved one addicted to synthetic cathinones? Here’s how to find the support you need.

This drug can have disastrous effects on a user’s life. The people who take it are at a high risk of overdosing. Even a few doses can lead to severe health problems.

There are many addiction resources to help people get off this drug. For example, there are drug and alcohol detox facilities that specialize in treating stimulant addicts. With a doctor’s help, anyone can get off this drug and turn their life around.

Want to learn more? Check out our Drug & Alcohol Rehab Program


Bath Salt Detox: The First Step Toward Sobriety

In order to quit using any drug, the addict needs to start by detoxing. Detox is the stage in recovery where the addict stops using and flushes the chemicals out of their system.

Detoxing from bath salts is difficult. When the user quits, they experience a number of withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms may include fatigue, insomnia, nausea, and anxiety. Depending on how bad their addiction is, they may also experience paranoia, hallucinations, and even seizures.

But, addicts can avoid some of these symptoms by checking into a professional detox facility. There, they’ll have access to medical professionals who help them through the process. These doctors administer medications and help them wean off the drug. They also monitor the patient’s progress to ensure that they’re as safe and comfortable as possible.

Some people are able to detox at home. However, they tend to have a much harder time. In some cases, they may relapse to stop their withdrawal symptoms. Those who check into a professional treatment facility don’t have to worry about that.

Learn about our Drug & Alcohol Detox Program

Everyone has a different withdrawal timeline. Some people are able to detox within a few days while others take longer than a week. It all depends on how much they used, how long they used for, and whether or not they used other drugs. People with healthy livers also tend to detox quicker, as they’re able to flush the drug out of their system faster.

Also, every type of bath salt has a different half-life. This means that some salts leave the system faster than others. MDPV, for example, flushes out of the body in just a few hours. Others, however, may live in the system for half a day. The type of cathinones a person used affects their withdrawal timeline.


Bath Salts Addiction Rehab: Getting Back to Normal

After detox, most recovering addicts attend a drug rehab program. These programs help them transition back into a sober lifestyle. For some people, this transition is very difficult. So, it helps to have some support along the way.

Rehab programs provide therapy, counseling, and other services for people in recovery. These resources help to prepare people for a drug-free life.

It’s important to remember that drug addiction doesn’t end when you detox. In order to stay sober, you have to constantly fight off cravings and triggers. It’s easy to pick up drugs and relapse.

But, drug rehab teaches stress management techniques to help you cope with triggers in a healthy way. These techniques are shown to prevent relapse. You’ll also meet former addicts that will act as a support network to help you in your transition.

Find out more about how our Drug Rehab Program can help you through recovery

It’s a misconception that drug treatment is expensive. While some programs have high price tags, there are many free and low-cost options out there.

At Northpoint Recovery, we work with insurance providers to help addicts get the support they need. That way, those with insurance can get treatment for free or very little money.

Verify Your Insurance Plan!

For those without coverage, there are still options. We also offer payment plans. That way, addicts can get treatment now and pay for it later.

Our Facility and Location

Northpoint Recovery is a state of the art, comfortable and modern inpatient detox and drug rehab facility designed to help our clients get the help they need to overcome addiction.

Northpoint Drug and Alcohol Rehab Call (888) 280-3348 Now

Bath Salts Addiction Rehab: Getting Back to Normal

After detox, most recovering addicts attend a drug rehab program. These programs help them transition back into a sober lifestyle. For some people, this transition is very difficult. So, it helps to have some support along the way.

Rehab programs provide therapy, counseling, and other services for people in recovery. These resources help to prepare people for a drug-free life.

It’s important to remember that drug addiction doesn’t end when you detox. In order to stay sober, you have to constantly fight off cravings and triggers. It’s easy to pick up drugs and relapse.

But, drug rehab teaches stress management techniques to help you cope with triggers in a healthy way. These techniques are shown to prevent relapse. You’ll also meet former addicts that will act as a support network to help you in your transition.

Find out more about how our Drug Rehab Program can help you through recovery

It’s a misconception that drug treatment is expensive. While some programs have high price tags, there are many free and low-cost options out there.

At Northpoint Recovery, we work with insurance providers to help addicts get the support they need. That way, those with insurance can get treatment for free or very little money.

Verify Your Insurance Plan!

For those without coverage, there are still options. We also offer payment plans. That way, addicts can get treatment now and pay for it later.

Talk to a Rehab Specialist

Our admissions coordinators are here to help you get started with treatment the right way. They'll verify your health insurance, help set up travel arrangements, and make sure your transition into treatment is smooth and hassle-free.

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Northpoint Recovery Wants to Help You Overcome Bath Salt Addiction

If you or a family member is addicted to synthetic cathinones, we want to help. We provide detox and rehabilitation services designed to help addicts turn their lives around.

Northpoint Recovery is a professional addiction treatment center, located in Boise, ID. If you are ready to get back on the right path, give us a call today.