Bath Salts: An Overview

Bath Salts: America’s Newest Addictive Drug

Bath salts are a dangerous new class of drugs that contain synthetic cathinones, a group of psychoactive chemicals that act on the brain like a supercharged mixture of amphetamines and cocaine. Until recently, bath salts could be legally purchased online or at the corner store because the active ingredients were so new that they had not yet been prohibited in the United States. In July 2012, the federal government banned the chemical compounds most frequently found in bath salts, as well as any similar chemicals that may be created in the future. The new law is one important step toward eliminating this frighteningly powerful family of drugs.

What Are Bath Salts?

The drugs known as bath salts are chemically unrelated to the beauty products designed to create a more pleasant bathing experience. Epsom salts will not get you high. However, the drugs that contain synthetic cathinones can produce powerful feelings of euphoria, as well as paranoia, hallucinatory delirium, and psychotic behavior.

Bath salts are available as white or brown powdery crystals and are often sold in small packages with names like "Vanilla Sky," "Ivory Wave," and "Scarface." These packages may be labeled as plant food or jewelry cleaner. Bath salts are comparatively inexpensive and because of their chemical similarity to amphetamines, there is growing concern over the potential for abuse and addiction.

Why Are They Controversial?

Since bath salts became widely available in the U.S. around 2010, they have made alarming headlines. Poison control centers and emergency rooms have seen a sharp rise in bath-salt-related calls and visits, and police have become familiar with a condition known as "excited delirium," as part of which users exhibit violent and psychotic behavior. According to a new online PSA produced by the U.S. Navy in an effort to prevent their sailors from trying synthetic drugs, the paranoia induced by bath salts can persist for days or weeks after the drugs have been taken. There have been numerous reports of suicides thought to be a result of the drug's terrifying and lingering effects.

Bath salts are called designer drugs because they are new compounds created by chemists (in contrast to existing drugs that have been identified and banned); this is one reason why it has been difficult to prevent them from being sold. As soon as one synthetic cathinone is banned, drug manufacturers can invent a similar but unique compound to circumvent legal restrictions. For this reason, the new federal law prohibits not only the three most common ingredients in bath salts—methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV), mephedrone, and methylone—but also all other similar chemicals.

Signs Of Use

While someone is under the influence of bath salts, they may experience:

  • chest pain
  • seizures
  • rapid pulse
  • high blood pressure
  • agitation
  • excessive energy
  • paranoia
  • suicidal ideations
  • homicidal ideations
  • hallucinations
  • feelings of desperation

If you suspect that someone you know is using bath salts, you should also look for classic signs of drug use, including moodiness, changes in behavior and relationships, changes in sleep patterns, and an otherwise unexplainable need for money. Educate yourself and your loved ones about these dangerous new drugs, and do not hesitate to seek help for those who are abusing them.