US Drug Test Centers Blog

What are Bath Salts and How Do They Impact You?

Posted: Aug 27 2021

woman with head in hands

By: Ashlee Arnold

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), "bath salts" is the umbrella name for synthetic cathinones – a group of one or more human-made stimulants chemically similar to cathinone. Cathinone is a substance naturally found in khat plants, which are grown in East Africa and southern Arabia.

Along with synthetic cathinones, these illicit drugs typically contain combinations of 3,4-methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV), mephedrone, and methylone. The lab-made versions of cathinones can be much stronger than the plant product and can lead to dangerous outcomes.

Known as psychoactive drugs, bath salts are usually brown or white crystal-like powder, sold in small plastic or foil packs with the label "Not for Human Consumption." They can also be tagged as "jewelry cleaner," "phone screen cleaner," or &"plant food."

Although bath salts have been added to the list of controlled substances under Schedule 1 drugs, they’re still easily available. Commonly, they're sold online or in drug product stores. Often, they're under names like Cloud 9, Ivory Wave, Vanilla Sky, and White Lightning, to avoid detection by the Drug Enforcement Administration or local authorities.

These drugs are usually taken by inhaling, injecting, snorting, or swallowing, with injecting and snorting being the most harmful methods.

Adding to its marketability, bath salts are known as a cheaper substitute for amphetamine and cocaine. Commonly, they're sold for as little as $15 to $20 for a 200mg pack that can be used for three hits. Often, drug products like Molly are combined with synthetic cathinones instead of MDMA because it's less expensive.

It's important to note that these illicit, lab-made "bath salts" should not be confused with the original bath salts (Epsom salts) that are added to bathwater. Those are made of minerals like magnesium and sulfate to help ease stress and relax muscles in a natural way.

How Bath Salts Impact You

Synthetic cathinones alter the way nerve cells (called neurons) communicate, thus changing the way the brain works. Neurons release chemicals called neurotransmitters when they send messages to one another. However, bath salts disrupt this process, preventing the brain from operating optimally.

The NIDA adds that these drugs increase dopamine, the type of neurotransmitter that controls movement and the reward system. And when bath salts influence this system, they teach the brain to seek and repeat it because it provides pleasure – resulting in intense cravings and motivation to take drugs.

The Side Effects of Bath Salts

Bath salts are known to cause extreme neurological and psychiatric changes, and possibly even be destructive behaviors. These include:

  • Agitation and irritability
  • Hallucinations
  • Nervousness
  • Paranoia
  • Psychosis
  • Self-destruction
  • Temporary feelings of joy
  • Violent behaviors

woman high on bath salts

Others may also experience heightened physical and emotional sensations such as:

  • Anxiety and depression
  • Dizziness
  • Euphoria
  • Heightened friendliness and sex drive
  • Increased heart rate
  • Panic attacks
  • Reduced movement controls
  • Sleeping problems
  • Sweating
  • Upset stomach and vomiting

There have also been reported cases when bath salt users required medical help for heart problems, particularly chest pains, high blood pressure, and a racing heartbeat.

While users claim to have their worst high with bath salts, the cravings get so intense that they are driven to continue taking the drug.

The Risks

In a report, Dr. Louis Nelson of the New York University School of Medicine claims that bath salts have the same cardiovascular risks as amphetamine. This includes arrhythmias, heart collapse, hypertension, hyperthermia, myocardial infarction, respiratory distress, and stroke. Worse, this can even be deadlier for people with underlying cardiovascular diseases.

Furthermore, bath salts are so dangerous that users tend to end up being restrained by medical professionals because they can harm themselves and others. Bath salt users – especially younger ones – are prone to committing homicides, overdoses, suicides, and vehicular crashes.

Additionally, bath salts users are prone to experience "excited delirium" where they lose touch with reality and can become a threat to themselves and other people. Some may also develop severe health effects such as the breakdown of muscle tissues, dehydration, and kidney failure. Worse, when bath salts are injected, individuals risk getting HIV/AIDS or hepatitis if they share needles.

The worst risk of bath salt consumption is death. Severe intoxication and overdose from bath salts have been rampant among users who have died due to this drug. Even more, mixing bath salts with alcohol or other substances can be especially dangerous, because there is no other way of knowing what's in a dose unless it's tested in a lab.

Treatment for Bath Salts

The NIDA notes that similar to other drugs, addiction to bath salts can potentially be addressed with behavioral therapy. This can include:

  • Behavioral programs for teens
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy
  • Contingency management to provide rewards to individuals who remain substance-free
  • Motivational enhancement therapy

Additionally, while there are not yet any FDA-approved drugs to counter bath salts addiction, there are drugs to address common co-occurring conditions. It's crucial to seek help from your healthcare provider to know which one works appropriately for your needs (or your loved ones).

Although street drugs such as bath salts are illegal at all levels, manufacturers and distributors have found ways to get around the law and continue to supply the public. If you're an employer, understanding how to keep your workplace drug-free is vital.

That's why it's crucial that you create a drug-free workplace program – complete with comprehensive policies and relevant training to ensure that you provide a healthy, safe, and drug-free environment for everyone.

For all your alcohol and drug testing needs as well as developing your drug-free workplace program, US Drug Test Centers is here to help. We also provide all types of specialty testing for individuals throughout the country.

Contact us today to learn more or order a test online.

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