When you hear the term “bath salts,” you probably think of a moisturizer you use while you’re taking a bath, right? Well, a newer drug with the same name recently emerged and swept the country.
If you’re familiar with this drug, you know it’s also referred to as “the zombie drug” because of the effects it causes the user to experience. Zombie apocalypses have been depicted in television and movies, but the emergence of bath salts has created real-life horror films. It’s one of the deadliest street drugs in distribution, and it’s even more concerning because it’s legal.
How is a drug legal that mimics the effects of amphetamines and MDMA? The first reason is the way it’s marketed. The drug is packaged as plant food or actual bath salts, so it can be purchased at a gas station or tobacco store. If you have kids, it should be alarming that something this powerful and dangerous is readily accessible.
The most popular story related to bath salts was the infamous face-eater. “He is a monster, a zombie, a cannibal,” the news anchor emphatically said. A man in Miami who ingested bath salts went on a rampage and ate a defenseless homeless man’s face. Upon arrival, a police officer stated that it took four gunshots to get the man to stop his attack.
The story above is just one of many, and it’s an extreme example of the way bath salts can affect a seemingly “normal” person. These drugs consume the users, so they’re unable to continue living their lives. Due to their unpredictability, bath salts are extremely dangerous to both the user and those around them. If you suspect that a loved one has been using bath salts, you must familiarize yourself with the signs to prevent a real problem from arising. Scroll down to learn more about bath salts.
The pharmaceutical name for bath salts is synthetic cathinones. This class of drugs has one or more man-made chemicals related to cathinones, which are stimulant drugs similar to amphetamines and cocaine. These drugs are found in the khat plant, which is grown in East Africa and southern Arabia.
Frequently, cathinones are found in bath salts that are primarily made up of 3,4,-methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV), mephedrone, and methylone. These products are much stronger than other drugs, which have the potential to be just as dangerous.
The problem law enforcement officers have with bath salts is that the chemical structure is constantly changing. Each time the drug is seized and tested, the chemical makeup is altered in a way that keeps it legal. While they all possess the same analogs, the alteration in chemical structure changes the way the drug can affect the user. Furthermore, the drugs are packaged in a way that won’t require FDA approval, which is a sneaky but brilliant way to get around the law. The labels read “not for human consumption,” and it can be sold as plant food or actual baths salts.
While synthetic cathinones have an effect that’s similar to cocaine or meth, MDPV is much stronger and longer-lasting. So it activates feelings of motivation, arousal, energy, and excitement in the user that makes them come back for more.
Bath salts cause such a strong reaction that some users find it overwhelming. Users often use the drug once, and never again. Addiction to bath salts is not as common as other drugs, but it does occur. Since the drug is changing each time the user ingests it, they’ll never know for sure what they’re getting. So while they had one good experience, they could have an entirely different one next time that dissuades further use. For instance, bath salts can cause a strong feeling of panic and frightening hallucinations.
As mentioned earlier in the article, bath salt addiction is less common because of the undesirable effects, but it still occurs. Some users experience euphoria, while the majority feel paranoia, anxiety, and extreme panic. The resulting hallucinations have been described as bad nightmares. Since addiction is the result of excessive and repeated use, it is difficult to classify the use of bath salts as addictive. However, studies on rats showed that MDPV can create rewarding effects that can lead to addiction.
The first sign of addiction is a growing tolerance to a given substance. This tolerance indicates that the initial dose of the drug is becoming weaker. Your brain is getting accustomed to using the substance. When using a stimulant that causes the release of dopamine, it will have diminishing effects until the brain has a chance to replenish dopamine.
The next sign is dependence, which indicates a growing need for the drug to balance normalcy in the brain. If you cut back on use, you may experience uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. Once the compulsions to use the drug are greater than your ability to resist it, addiction has started setting in. This impact can be characterized by the continued use of a drug, even if it has caused severe consequences.
Addiction is a chronic disease that affects everyone differently. Due to the gradual improvements of addiction treatment, it has become a very treatable disease. Each person that attends treatment requires a unique approach. There is no one-size-fits-all solution, so a professionally trained staff will take the time to determine your exact needs. You must find a treatment center that meets the industry standard and offers treatment backed by scientific evidence, especially since these kinds of centers are more likely to be accepted by private insurance.
The first step in the continuum of care is a medical detoxification center. Medical professionals will continually monitor your health 24/7 throughout your stay. You could be in the detox for three to seven days, depending on the severity of your addiction and other medical problems that may be present. During your stay, you will become prepared for the level of care you’ll complete after detox.
Due to the unpredictability of bath salts, this step is an important part of care. They’ll provide medication to alleviate withdrawal symptoms (which can include depression, anxiety, tremors, insomnia, and paranoia) and make the process a bit more comfortable.
During the assessment period at the beginning of detox, clinicians will help determine the path you’ll take. After completing detox, you’ll be placed in a level of care that varies in intensity and predicts the amount of time you’ll spend there. If the team decides to stay in residential treatment will benefit you long-term, you will live on-site for up to 90 days. During this time, you will attend therapy that will help you understand the root of your addiction, and it will also shape your behaviors to make sure you’re successful outside of treatment.
If the team sees you as a low risk, they will place you in an outpatient program that allows you to go home after therapy. The amount of time you spend in therapy can vary, depending on the type of treatment. Intensive outpatient (IOP) requires more than nine hours of therapy per week, whereas outpatient requires nine hours or less. You will attend the same therapies that would be offered during residential treatment, but you have the option to go home after they’re finished. This path is the most useful one for individuals who cannot forfeit their daily obligations.
Watterson, L. R., Kufahl, P. R., Nemirovsky, N. E., Sewalia, K., Grabenauer, M., Thomas, B. F., . . . Olive, M. F. (2012, July 11). Potent Rewarding and Reinforcing Effects of the Synthetic Cathinone 3,4‐Methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV) from https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1369-1600.2012.00474.x
Bath Salts. (2017, March 01). from https://teens.drugabuse.gov/drug-facts/bath-salts
Tienabeso, S. (2012, May 30). Miami Face-Eating Attack Lasted 18 Agonizing Minutes. from https://abcnews.go.com/US/miami-face-eating-attack-lasted-18-agonizing-minutes/story?id=16458696