The drug known as bath salts are becoming more widespread in American culture and continue spreading like wildfire in our communities. In recent years, the substance has been reported by the media about individuals who exhibit reckless and “zombie-like” behaviors. Although no evidence exists to back up the speculation, bath salts might induce horrific side effects, such as hallucinations, paranoia, bizarre behavior, and in rare cases, death.
Bath salts are made up of components from the khat plant, an East African shrub that produces cathinones. Simply put, the cathinones act like amphetamines that affect the central nervous system (CNS) to boost energy. On top of the energizing effects, bath salts increase the production of dopamine and serotonin to cause feelings of euphoria and, in some cases, hallucinations.
Since synthetic bath salts have emerged on the street, there have been variations that range in strength and have more dangerous side effects. Individuals who use bath salts on a regular basis are at significant risk of developing severe or life-threatening side effects that include respiratory distress, psychosis, brain swelling, seizures, or death.
Bath salts are considered extremely addictive, and those who try to stop may experience withdrawal symptoms that range from mild to severe. In most cases, it’ll be necessary for the individual to taper off the drug in a medical environment. Since the drug is unregulated and much is still unknown, withdrawal symptoms can be wildly unpredictable.
The most common physical withdrawal symptoms caused by bath salts include:
The most common psychological withdrawal symptoms caused by bath salts include:
The timeline for bath salts withdrawal is going to vary from one person to another because the ingredients are different from each batch. Even if you purchase several packages at a time, since the drug is not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the ingredients and dosage could be completely different. Although more studies are needed from scientists to learn about the effects, the bath salt withdrawal timeline is similar to stimulants like amphetamines.
It’s important to remember that specific factors will affect the duration and intensity of withdrawal symptoms. To put it simply, withdrawals won’t be the same for everyone. These are some of the factors that will determine a person’s experience:
Prolonged usage of bath salts is detrimental to the brain and will affect it similarly to cocaine. However, it’ll be much more intense. In addition to the brain, bath salts will change the chemical composition in the body. The longer you use bath salts, your body will adjust to the chemicals because of their addictive nature. If you starve your body of bath salts, it’ll go into withdrawal mode, which is very uncomfortable and even dangerous.
Should you detox from bath salts? Absolutely. The longer you use these unpredictable drugs increases your chances of a fatal overdose or death. Coming off of bath salts allows your body to rid itself of the toxic and harmful chemicals and start repairing the damage caused by use. It’s the first step toward breaking the cycle of dependence or addiction.
However, if you’re ready to stop, you should never quit cold turkey because of the physiological and psychological dangers involved. As was mentioned above, the process is unpredictable, and surrounding yourself with trained medical professionals to provide medications to alleviate the symptoms and monitor your health is vital. It will also increase your odds of long-term success.
Before someone considers treatment, they must go through detox to completely rid the body of the toxic ingredients found in the drug. Detox is only the first step in recovery and will occur on either an inpatient or outpatient basis, depending on the severity of withdrawals. Detox isn’t enough to address the issues fueling addiction, and entering into long-term treatment will help get to the root of the problem.
Residential treatment will allow a person to live at the center while getting treatment for their addiction. Doctors will provide medication to assist with the uncomfortable symptoms, and the person will receive around-the-clock care and access to addiction specialists. When the person is finished with detox, they’ll focus on individual counseling, group counseling, life skills building, and support group sessions. Residential treatment is 30 days on average but could be longer depending on the patient’s needs. The plan must be tailored to suit the individual.
An outpatient center is ideal for those who have work, school, or other obligations as a barrier to getting help. Outpatient care will allow the person to go to a treatment center seven days a week and return once therapy concludes. It may start with five sessions per week and decrease once progress is made. These sessions are designed to help the individual learn relapse prevention skills, life skills and assist them with ongoing recovery plans.
Both inpatient and outpatient treatment is a valuable asset to recovery from bath salt addiction. Heavy users should attend inpatient treatment and remain there to be monitored by substance abuse professionals because of the unpredictable withdrawal symptoms. Outpatient is better suited for those with a mild dependence on bath salts. Once the person completes treatment, the battle isn’t over. Ongoing recovery is necessary as you adjust to your life sober, and it’s essential to attend 12-step programs or move into a sober living home.
SAMHSA (February 2021) Recovery Homes Help People in Early Recovery. from https://www.samhsa.gov/homelessness-programs-resources/hpr-resources/recovery-homes-help-people
DEA (February 2021) Stimulants. from https://www.dea.gov/taxonomy/term/346
MedicineNet (N.D.) Bath Salts Abuse and Addiction. from https://www.medicinenet.com/bath_salts_abuse_and_addiction/article.htm
NCBI (October 2009) How Does the Nervous System Work? from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279390/
NIDA (February 2021) What Are Synthetic Cathinones? from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/synthetic-cathinones-bath-salts