What Are Bath Salts – Drug Abuse – Effects – Dangers

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. “This class of drugs is a cheaper substitute for other stimulants.

A recent study found that MDPV, the most common synthetic cathinone, raises brain dopamine similarly to cocaine but is at least ten times more potent.

Most of them contain some form of synthetic cathinone compound. Chemically, this type of drug is similar to amphetamines (such as methamphetamine) and MDMA (ecstasy).

The synthetic cathinones in these drugs can produce euphoria and increased sociability, and sex drive. However, 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.

They are typically taking the form of a white or brown crystalline powder. Bath salts are typically taken orally, inhaled, or injected, with the worst outcomes associated with snorting or needle injection.

The hallucinatory effects often reported in users are consistent with other drugs such as MDMA or LSD that raise another neurotransmitter, serotonin. In addition, a recent analysis of the results in rats of mephedrone and methylone showed that these drugs increased serotonin levels like 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. Waves of these transmitters can raise heart rate and blood pressure.

Here’s a list of some of the possible side effects:

  • Delusions
  • Paranoia
  • Elevated Blood Pressure
  • Chest Pains
  • Increased Heart Rate
  • Agitation
  • Hallucinations
  • Suicidal Ideation

Visual symptoms similar to stimulant overdoses include dilated pupils, involuntary muscle movement, rapid heartbeat, and high blood pressure.

Bath salts have increased visits to the emergency room and poison control centers. In 2011, 23,000 emergency rooms for “bath salts.” A Common reaction for people who have needed medical attention after using bath salts includes cardiac symptoms and psychiatric symptoms, including paranoia, hallucinations, and panic attacks.

In addition, people who believe they are taking drugs such as MDMA (Molly or Ecstasy) may be getting this drug instead. Methylone, a common chemical, has been substituted for MDMA in capsules sold as Molly in some areas.

To try and disguise their true identity, under a variety of brand names, including:

  • Ivory Wave
  • Bloom
  • Jewelry Cleaner
  • Cosmic Blast
  • Cloud Nine
  • Lunar Wave
  • Vanilla Sky
  • White Lightning
  • Scarface
  • Drone
  • Meph
  • Meow Meow
  • ecstasy
  • Blizzard
  • Purple Wave
  • Zoom

The artificial cathinone products sold as “bath salts” should not be confused with Epsom salts (the original bath salts), made of a mineral mixture of magnesium and sulfate and added to bathwater to help ease stress and relax muscles.

In October 2011, the Drug Enforcement Administration put an emergency ban on three cathinones until officials knew more about them. Then, in July 2012, President Barack Obama signed legislation permanently making mephedrone and MDPV illegal.


U.S. Dept. of Justice