All You Need to Know About Bath Salts

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One of the most infamous substances raising alarm among governments and international health agencies is bath salts. In this article, we will take a comprehensive look at this extremely dangerous substance, its dangers and effects, legality in the U.S., and other important information.

What are Bath Salts?

Bath salts are commonly mistaken for products used in actual bath tubs. The truth is that they do not work that way – instead, they contain methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV), a stimulant compound that hasn’t been approved for use by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The newer versions of this drug, however, contain a list of other derivatives. It is otherwise labeled as “plant food”, “phone screen cleaner” or “jewelry cleaner”, which according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has nothing to do with their real purpose.


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In North America, the term bath salt is used to refer to a set of synthetic recreational drugs. They were actually named as such because these substances have been sold as regular bath salts to disguise their true purpose and identity. They typically look white and are sold in granules or powder form that resembles Epsom salt, a type of bath salt.

One other thing that will fool you to purchase them is the indication of the phrase “not for human consumption” on their labels. These words have been used by manufacturers and illicit distributors to bypass drug prohibition laws.

Bath salts actually contain a substance called cathinone, in the form of either MDPV or methylone. However, there are cases wherein its pharmacology can be different. Some other products containing the same name may include substances such as pipradrol or pyrovalerone.

Typically, the main synthetic cathinone used in its production will depend on where it was made. In the U.S., bath salts primarily contain MDPV. Meanwhile, in Europe, mephedrone is more popular.

Bath salts are usually ingested by snorting. They can also be taken orally, smoked, or put into a solution and injected into veins.

History of Bath Salts

Mephedrone, one of the synthetic cathinones associated with the manufacture of bath salts, is said to be naturally found in the East African plant known as Catha edulis. The plant was first synthesized during the 1920s but was rediscovered by underground chemists during the first decade of the 21st century when they were then used in the production of recreational synthetic drugs.

When a significant increase in the number of abuses for synthetic cathinones arose all over the world from Europe to the United States in between 2009 and 2010, attention to bath salts increased as well.

Bath salts were then sold in a number of ways depending on the location where they are being marketed. In Europe, for instance, they are sold through the help of drug dealers while others can be ordered online. In the United States, however, they are made available in a number of venues including gas stations, head shops, and all other small independent stores.

Others can be sold online in packets bearing names such as Zoom, Purple Wave or Cloud Nine. It is sad to note that they can be easily obtained – in fact even easier than alcohol and cigarettes.

Effects of Bath Salts on the User

There are various effects associated with the use of bath salts. Short-term effects commonly include severe paranoia that causes users to inflict harm on themselves.

According to the Poison Control Centers, other effects include chest pain, hypertension, hallucinations, agitation, confusion or violent behavior. At the worst, it can lead to serious injury or even death.

Some other effects involve the user's state of mind, emotions and physical wellbeing. This can mean euphoria at times and a lack of appetite in another. Headaches, increased body temperature, dilated pupils, nosebleeds and tense muscles are also common manifestations.

Some users complain of dizziness or may find themselves grinding their teeth. Liver or kidney failure as well as loss of bowel control are physical effects of bath salts abuse.

In other cases, rhabdomyolysis or the breakdown of muscle fibers can be a result as well. This particular effect may lead to death.

Here is a list of identified effects of using bath salts:

  • Agitation
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Hallucinations
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Delusions
  • Paranoia
  • Combative or violent behavior
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Seizures
  • Panic attacks
  • Chest pain
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Increased heart rate
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Death or serious injury

In terms of behavior, a bath salts user may be observed to be unproductive at work, skip classes and missing homework, fail to pay for financial commitments, and get entangled in legal and criminal issues.

Classification of Bath Salts

In 2011, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) issued an order that allows the agency to exercise its control over three of the synthetic components used to make bath salts. As a result of such a final order, all substances have been classified under Schedule I drugs as governed by the Controlled Substances Act.

Threats Related to Bath Salts Use

There are many known effects of bath salts, and one of the most tragic results is an early death. This is a result not only of the effects associated with its intake but also of pain or injury inflicted by the user on himself.

Here are some real scenarios linked to bath salts use:

  • On March 2011 in New Jersey, a young man killed his girlfriend after he has ingested bath salts.
  • In a separate instance, a young woman was reported to have lost her arm, breast, shoulder and other body tissues after injecting bath salts.
  • A young man residing in Louisiana experienced hallucinations after taking bath salts, leading him to think that his home was surrounded by police officers. This caused him to try cutting his own throat. His family was able to intervene at the right moment, but his throat was still stitched after obtaining the cut. The following day though, he shot himself to death.

Statistics Related to Bath Salts Abuse

The threats enumerated above represent only a small fraction of all reported abuses relating to bath salts. Here are other facts and figures to take note of:

  • According to NIDA, bath salts have been associated with a number of ER visits across the United States. As of October 2010, there was already 251 bath salt-related calls received by poison control centers.
  • While the drug has been banned in 31 states in the US as of 2010, the number of calls regarding bath salts abused has increased to 6,000 in 2011 although decreasing to 2,250 for the first two quarters of 2012.

Other statistics on bath salt synthetic drug abuse include the following:

Legality of Bath Salts Use

The tragic effects of bath salts have pushed world governments to exert more efforts in solving all legal issues linked to the synthetic drug. Following the emergency ban of three synthetic cathinones in October 2011, President Obama signed a legislation in July 2012 to permanently categorize MDPV and mephedrone as illegal. This ban seemed to be insufficient in many countries, though, since new substances have been created by underground laboratories.

In the case of United Kingdom, for instance, a substance called naphyrone replaced mephedrone and was eventually sold as a jewelry cleaner, otherwise known by the brand name “Cosmic Blast”.

After the Synthetic Drug Abuse Prevention Act of July 2012 made the possession, distribution and use of MDPV illegal, the DEA placed methylone (another bath salt substance) under a regulatory ban. This does not mean however that all other components in the manufacture of these synthetic drugs have been banned.

State-specific legislations have also been made to ban such products. Among the several states that have implemented such regulations are North Dakota, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan and Hawaii. Counties, cities and even local municipalities have also implemented their ban on such substances.

Different Legislative Approaches on Banning Bath Salts

A variety of approaches have been used to ban bath salts in the market. Among them include the following:

  • Individual bans where specific synthetic cathinones in bath salts have been added to the schedule of controlled substances.
  • General bans where synthetic drugs have been prohibited for sale in the market without necessarily listing out their specific substances.

Testing for Bath Salts Abuse

Unlike more popular substances such as marijuana (THC) and cocaine, bath salts are relatively more difficult to test and detect. That is why some people resort to relying on the common signs and symptoms of bath salts abuse to confirm suspicions of substance use.

Fortunately, drug testing companies like TestCountry have already kept up with the issue, leading many of them to develop instant synthetic drug test kits that can detect the presence of bath salts components. Here are some of the available bath salts testing kits on the market:

Do Alere Drug Screens Detect Bath Salts?

Most urine testing products can detect synthetic cathinones in the sample for up to 72 hours after the last intake. Some of these kits are designed to detect specific components of bath salts, such as MDPV, mephedrone, methylone, and naphyrone.

Treatment for Bath Salts Addiction

As soon as bath salts abuse is discovered, the user should be subjected to a rehabilitation program. One of the primary reasons behind bath salts addiction is linked to behavioral and psychological patterns, all of which may be addressed by rehab.

It’s important for family and friends to be the first persons to talk to users about their condition. In as much as you want the issue to be solved as soon as possible, the recovery process requires patience and understanding. If you’re the one talking to a user, try to understand what they are saying, before judging them or giving advice.

Another good option is to coordinate with addiction centers that can help bath salts addicts get rid of the bad habit. Experts in the field of substance abuse are equipped with strategies to make the restoration process faster and easier for the recovering addict.

Final Word

If someone you know may be exposed to bath salts, call your local poison control center at 1-800-222-1222. Poison experts can help you decide whether the victim can be treated at home, or must be brought to the hospital.