“Bath salts” is the name given to synthetic cathinones, a class of drugs that have one or more man-made chemicals related to cathinone. Cathinone is a stimulant found naturally in the khat plant, grown in East Africa and southern Arabia. Chemically, cathinones are similar to amphetamines such as methamphetamine and to MDMA (Ecstasy or Molly). Common man-made cathinones found in bath salts include 3,4-methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV), mephedrone (Drone, Meph, or Meow Meow), and methylone, but there are many others. These man-made cathinones can be much stronger than the natural product and can be very dangerous.
Other names for bath salts are often variants of different brand names, which include:
Pure IvoryBath salts are usually white or brown crystal-like powder and are sold in small plastic or foil packages labeled “Not for Human Consumption.” Sometimes labeled as “plant food”—or, more recently, as “jewelry cleaner” or “phone screen cleaner”—they are sold online and in drug product stores. These names or descriptions have nothing to do with the product. It’s a way for the drug makers to avoid detection by the Drug Enforcement Administration or local police.
NOTE: The man-made cathinone products sold as “bath salts” should not be confused with products such as Epsom salts (the original bath salts) that people add to bathwater to help ease stress and relax muscles. Epsom salts are made of a mineral mixture of magnesium and sulfate.
How Bath Salts Are Used
Use of “bath salts” (the drugs) sometimes causes severe intoxication (a person seems very drunk or “out of it”) and dangerous health effects. There are also reports of people becoming psychotic (losing touch with reality) and violent. Although it is rare, there have been several cases where bath salts have been the direct cause of death.
In addition, people who believe they are taking drugs such as MDMA (Molly or Ecstasy) may be getting “bath salts” instead. Methylone, a common chemical in bath salts, has been substituted for MDMA in capsules sold as Molly in some areas.
Bath salts can be swallowed, snorted through the nose, inhaled, or injected with a needle. Snorting or injecting is the most harmful.
Physical effects may include:
- Dilated pupils
- Increased blood pressure and heart rate
- Increased sex drive
- Reduced need for eating or sleep
- Increased temperature or chills
- Chest pain
- Kidney pain
Psychological effects may include:
- Delusions or confusion
- Lowered inhibition and increased sociability
- Agitated or aggressive behavior
Signs of abuse
Prolonged use can be worse than the initial effects of bath salt use; it can also create extremely dangerous additional health risks. Here are some signs of abuse which may include:
- Breakdown of skeletal muscle tissue
- Kidney failure
- Panic attacks
- Sleep disturbances
- Twitching and involuntary muscle movement
- Suicidal thoughts
Synthetic cathinones can be highly addictive leading to intense cravings and dependence. Many of those looking to break their habit have reported serious withdrawal symptoms such as:
- Decreased ability to remember or concentrate
Effects of bath salts
Bath salts affect the brain similarly to other stimulants, although they are less well studied and ingredients are constantly changing. They are typically designed to increase levels of pleasure and reward chemicals such as dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine to create an excited and euphoric state but since other substances are sometimes included or substituted during production, bath salt use may have very unpredictable or dangerous results.