The first thought that may come to your mind for bath salts is usually innocent—you’re looking to enhance a bubble bath. Unfortunately, it’s a slightly more recent synthetic drug that has swept the nation and caused significant problems. If you are familiar with the substance, you may know that it’s nicknamed the “zombie drug” because of its terrifying effects.
With all the drugs in circulation, bath salts are among the deadliest because of their toxic effects. What makes bath salts even more dangerous is how easily accessible they are in local shops. The chemical structure of these substances is intended to mimic amphetamines and other central nervous stimulants. Bath salts are commonly sold as bathing products or plant food, making them legal when purchased at a tobacco shop or gas station.
For the most part, you can predict the outcome when ingesting most illegal drugs. Unfortunately, bath salts are particularly dangerous because you cannot predict the outcome. If you suspect someone you know is experimenting with these deadly drugs, you must learn the symptoms to prevent them from endangering their life or others’ lives.
Bath salts are human-made synthetic cathinones that share stimulant properties with amphetamines and cocaine. The ingredients can be found in the khat plant, which grows wildly in southern Arabia and East Africa. The cathinones in most of the bath salts you’ll find are made up of 3,4,-methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV), methylone, and mephedrone.
Each time law enforcement officials seize a batch of bath salts, chemists will alter the chemical makeup to keep it “technically legal.” Bath salts are also packaged in a modest fashion that doesn’t require approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Dealers of the drug skirt the law by including “not for human consumption” on the label.
MDPV affects our brain like cocaine, but there is one difference—it’s more potent than cocaine and lasts much longer. The substance activates feelings of arousal, excitement, motivation, and energy, leaving users wanting more and more of the drug.
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Bath salts addiction is far less common than cocaine or meth addiction. However, it can still occur. The chemical structure of bath salts changes frequently, and it’s extremely common for users to have a bad experience, leaving some of them scared to try the drug again. Although some individuals report euphoria associated with their experience, most describe feeling panicked, paranoid, and having terrifying hallucinations.
Drug or alcohol addiction is the result of repeated or excessive use, making it unusual for a person to become addicted to bath salts. Unfortunately, as mentioned above, it’s not impossible. The first sign in bath salts addiction is a growing tolerance, which indicates your initial dose is providing weaker effects.
If you develop a tolerance to bath salts and continue using, you’re likely to become dependent on the substance. Dependence indicates a growing need for the drug, and cutting back or quitting will cause withdrawal symptoms. If you can’t resist this urge despite adverse effects, such as getting arrested, you’ve likely become addicted to bath salts.
When a person becomes lost in the disease of addiction, they will do anything to keep using. It could mean lying, stealing, or committing serious crimes to obtain bath salts. Other behaviors associated with bath salts addiction include:
Addiction is a dangerous and progressive disease that affects people differently. Despite the dangers, advancements have been made in addiction treatment, leading to much higher success rates. Today, addiction is treatable with the right therapies, but you must keep in mind that it is not a one-size-fits-all solution. When you enter addiction treatment for bath salts, you will be thoroughly assessed by a professional team of addiction specialists to determine your course of action.
The first and most important step in addiction treatment for bath salts is medical detox. A person who commits to treatment will spend up to a week under 24-hour supervision and be given medications to alleviate their worst withdrawal symptoms. Since the chemical structure of bath salts changes so frequently, withdrawal symptoms are unpredictable. For this reason, you must have a team of licensed medical professionals at arms reach to ensure your safety. You could experience mild symptoms like anxiety to more severe symptoms like seizures.
Once you complete detox and clinicians deem you medically stable, you likely will need to enter the next level of care. While this may vary from one person to another, someone who abuses bath salts may need more intensive therapy, such as residential treatment, to better understand why they started using bath salts in the first place. However, the intensity levels will vary based on how severe your addiction is or if you have pressing medical issues.
If you’re considered high-risk, you will be placed on-site at a facility for up to 90 days and go through therapy sessions, helping you to understand the root of your addiction.
Those who are deemed lower risk could be placed in an outpatient facility, which provides more freedom as they work through the steps toward long-term sobriety. The individual will go through similar therapies, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) as someone in residential, but they have the option to sleep at home while attending work or school.
When it comes to bath salts, you never know what you’re getting. It may have the same label as a drug you’ve had in the past, but the chemical structure could have been altered in a way that causes you to have an adverse reaction. Cathinones may have stimulating effects, but you’ll never know how strong they could be in a given dose.
Bath salts could be fatal after one use, either from overdosing or the extreme effects they cause. If you witness adverse effects in a person caused by bath salts, you must immediately call 911.
NIDA (September 2020) Bath Salts. from https://teens.drugabuse.gov/drug-facts/bath-salts
NIDA (September 2020) Types of Treatment Programs. from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/principles-drug-addiction-treatment-research-based-guide-third-edition/drug-addiction-treatment-in-united-states/types-treatment-programs
DEA (September 2020) Cocaine. from https://www.dea.gov/factsheets/cocaine
NIDA (September 2020) Addiction Science. from https://www.drugabuse.gov/drug-topics/addiction-science
DEA (September 2020) Bath Salts. from https://www.dea.gov/factsheets/bath-salts