The United States has witnessed the rise of several “designer drugs” in recent years – synthetic compounds used to create specific effects. One of the most dangerous of these is bath salts, a crystalline substance that resembles large salt crystals. They can contain several different chemicals, including mephedrone and other synthetic cathinone substances. Bath salts can produce profound symptoms, and cause a host of severe medical problems.
The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has identified many of the active ingredients in bath salts and banned their sale in the United States to help curb the number of bath salts-manufacturing operations in the country.
What Are Bath Salts?
The term “bath salts” applies to any of the synthetic stimulant drugs containing cathinone, a stimulant compound commonly found in khat plants – which grow in East Africa and the Arabian Peninsula (Saudi Arabia, Yemen, etc.). Bath salts are structurally similar to other mainstream stimulants like methamphetamine and cocaine and can cause similar effects. They can also produce hallucinogenic effects like ecstasy does.
A bath salts user may:
- Ingest these drugs orally,
- Inhale them in a manner similar to snorting cocaine, or
- Melt the crystals down into a liquid and inject them into the bloodstream (for a fast-acting, concentrated effect).
Brief History of Bath Salt Use in the U.S.
Drug dealers sell bath salts under several street names, including (but not limited to):
- White Lightning
- Super Coke
The United States poison control centers received 304 calls about bath salts in 2010. In just the first four months of 2011, they received more than 1,700 calls and more than 6,000 by the end of 2011.
This jump indicates the spike in popularity of these drugs between 2010 and 2011. In fact, bath salts were the sixth-most used drug in the U.S in 2011. Most of the calls to poison control centers originated from southern states (Florida, Louisiana, and Kentucky, primarily), but now at least 33 states have been affected.
Several major news stories about the disturbing effects of bath salts abuse may have helped quell the sudden surge of interest in them. Poison control centers in the U.S. saw a noticeable drop in the number of bath salts-related calls in recent years. In 2012, there were 2,691 calls, and then “only” 996 in 2013.
Bath Salts Side Effects and Overdose Symptoms
Like any stimulant, bath salts are profoundly addictive. A person who uses a stimulant will generally feel a rush of positive feelings, including increased energy, higher alertness, improved mood, and euphoria.
However, most stimulants are fast acting, but not long lasting, and the user will experience a severe crash once the effects of a dose start to fade.
Symptoms of bath salts use generally include:
- Sexual stimulation
- Feeling of increased focus
- A few hours of increased energy
Depending on how a person ingests bath salts, he or she may experience severe medical complications. For example, inhaling the drug produces a more intense “high,” but it also affects the body more acutely in a shorter time.
Some of the most dangerous side effects of bath salt stimulants use can occur after inhaling or injecting the drug. Side effects typically include:
- Rapid heart rate
- High blood pressure
- Chest pain
However, these side effects may increase dramatically or evolve into worse symptoms such as seizures, cardiac arrest, brain swelling, liver failure, and intense hallucinations.
‘Replacing’ Cocaine or Meth with Bath Salts
Some people mistakenly believe that bath salts are a safer alternative to cocaine and methamphetamine with similar effects. Some drug users choose bath salts because they believe they are essentially the same thing as other, more expensive stimulants such as cocaine and meth. However, this is not the case, and although they may produce similar effects, bath salt stimulants are not safer than any other drug. In many ways, bath salts are far more dangerous than the more recognizable illegal stimulant drugs.
Similarities Between Cocaine and Bath Salts
When it comes to bath salts vs. cocaine, both drugs pose serious risks. As with any illegal drug purchase, there is no way for a person who buys these drugs to know the quality or purity of what they are buying.
Some illegal drugs pick up harmful substances like mold during trafficking, and some dealers may add other substances to their drugs to make them more potent and addictive. Since there are several cathinone compounds used in bath salts production, there is simply no way to tell what exactly a dose contains.
Similarities Between Meth and Bath Salts
The question of bath salts vs. methamphetamine is a similar issue. Meth can produce intense effects very quickly that result in a crash after a few hours. Bath salts also result in a crash and can produce psychological symptoms often observed in individuals struggling with meth addiction.
One major similarity between meth and bath salts is their ability to produce intense hallucinations. There have several documented incidents of people under the influence of bath salt stimulants engaging in extreme violence against others, self-harm and even cannibalism during their delirium.
Understanding Stimulant Abuse
Any type of addiction is destructive, but stimulant abuse often causes the most destruction in the shortest amount of time. A person with a stimulant addiction may have begun their use by looking for a boost to get through a stressful day or to overcome fatigue. As this type of use becomes a habit, the person will start relying on the stimulant more and more until the body starts craving it just for normal functioning.
What started as an occasional habit can easily escalate into full-blown addiction in a very short time.
The destruction stimulants can cause on the human body also happens very quickly. With some addictions, an individual can recover from most of the effects over time. However, stimulant abuse can lead to serious injuries that may entail permanent damage. Bath salts addiction also causes profound psychological damage, which may lead to long-term mental health difficulties.
Learn More About Bath Salts Abuse
Long-term stimulant abuse of any kind can cause serious deteriorating effects on the mind and body. For example, a person who experiences bath salts addiction may suffer organ failure and deep psychological stress under the influence of these dangerous drugs. There is also a very high risk of overdose. Bath salts are powerful synthetic drugs, and users who choose to inhale or inject these drugs are at a very high risk of fatally overdosing.
One of the biggest dangers of designer drugs in America is the perception that they are somehow safer than cocaine, ecstasy or meth. It’s crucial for everyone to know the risks of stimulant abuse and the dangerous effects these drugs can have.
Are You Addicted?
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One of the most important elements of bath salts treatment is identifying the problem in the first place. If you think you or someone you know is struggling with bath salts addiction or any other type of drug abuse, try our free quiz to see if seeking treatment is the best next step to take.