The term “bath salts” refers to a group of drugs containing or related to the cathinone family. The chemical “cathinone” is a naturally occurring stimulant drug found in the plant, Khat. Cathinones can cause feelings of euphoria and empathy as well as increasing alertness and talkativeness. Cathinones are in the amphetamine family of drugs, which includes amphetamine and MDMA and have similar effects. “Bath salts” are a cheaper substitute for other stimulants. A recent study found that MDPV, the most common synthetic cathinone raises brain dopamine in the same manner as cocaine but is at least 10 times more potent.
Understanding “Bath Salts”
Most bath salts contain some form of synthetic cathinone compound, such as MDPV (methylenedioxypyrovalerone), mephedrone, methylone and others. Chemically, they are similar to amphetamines (such as methamphetamine) as well as to MDMA (ecstasy).
The synthetic cathinones in bath salts can produce euphoria and increased sociability and sex drive. Some users experience paranoia, agitation, and hallucinatory delirium, some display psychotic and violent behavior.
Synthetic cathinones (“bath salts”) have a strong potential for abuse and addiction
How Bath Salts Are Used
Bath salts typically take the form of a white or brown crystalline powder. Bath salts are typically taken orally, inhaled, or injected, with the worst outcomes being associated with snorting or needle injection.
The Effects of Using Bath Salts
The hallucinatory effects often reported in users of bath salts are consistent with other drugs such as MDMA or LSD that raise levels of another neurotransmitter, serotonin. A recent analysis of the effects in rats of mephedrone and methylone showed that these drugs raised levels of serotonin in a manner similar to MDMA.
Bath salts usage can cause severe and dangerous health effects. There are also reports of people becoming psychotic and violent. Although it is rare, there have been several cases where bath salts have been the direct cause of death.
The energizing and often agitating effects reported in people who have taken bath salts are consistent with other drugs like amphetamines and cocaine. These stimulants raise the level of the neurotransmitter dopamine in brain circuits regulating reward and movement.
A surge in dopamine in these circuits causes feelings of euphoria and increased activity. Surges of these transmitters can raise heart rate and blood pressure.
Here’s a list of some of the possible side effects:
- Elevated Blood Pressure
- Chest Pains
- Increased Heart Rate
- Suicidal Ideation
Signs & Symptoms of Using Bath Salts
Visual symptoms similar to those of stimulant overdoses include dilated pupils, involuntary muscle movement, rapid heartbeat and high blood pressure.
Bath Salts Emergency Room Visits
Bath salts have increased visits to the emergency room and poison control centers. In 2011, 23,000 emergency room visits were related to “bath salts”. A Common reaction for people who have needed medical attention after using bath salts include cardiac symptoms and psychiatric symptoms including paranoia, hallucinations, and panic attacks.
The Old “Switcheroo”
In addition, people who believe they are taking drugs such as MDMA (Molly or Ecstasy) may be getting bath salts instead. Methylone, a common chemical in bath salts, has been substituted for MDMA in capsules sold as Molly in some areas.
To try and disguise their true identity, “Bath salts” are marketed under a variety of brand names, including:
- Ivory Wave
- Jewelry Cleaner
- Cosmic Blast
- Cloud Nine
- Lunar Wave
- Vanilla Sky
- White Lightning
- Meow Meow
- Purple Wave
Bath Salts Are Not For Bathing
The man made cathinone products sold as “bath salts” should not be confused with Epsom salts (the original bath salts), which are made of a mineral mixture of magnesium and sulfate and are added to bathwater to help ease stress and relax muscles.
In October 2011, the Drug Enforcement Administration put an emergency ban on three common man made cathinones until officials knew more about them. In July 2012, President Barack Obama signed legislation permanently making mephedrone and MDPV illegal.
References and More Information
U.S. Dept. of Justice
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