When you hear the term “bath salts,” you probably think of the scented beads you use in the 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 that 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 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.
Law enforcement and the news media guessed that the attacker might have been on bath salts. The crime fit the description of some other incidents that did involve bath salts. The violent outburst is sometimes a characteristic of stimulant psychosis. The attacker was naked, which is seen in bath salt highs because the drug raises your body temperature to the point where users feel compelled to take their clothes off to cool down. However, no bath salts or identifiable designer drugs were found in the attacker’s system, only marijuana.
Still, bath salts are a broad name for designer stimulants that can sometimes be difficult to identify in toxicology screens. Designer stimulants are made and continually altered to circumvent drug laws and confound law enforcement. However, that also makes illicit stimulants dangerous and unpredictable.
Bath salt abuse is a serious problem. If you or someone you know has been using designer stimulants, learn more about bath salts addiction and how it can be treated.
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 U.S. Food and Drug Administration (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 bath salts.
While synthetic cathinones have an effect that’s similar to cocaine or meth, MDPV is much stronger and longer-lasting. 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 could 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.
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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 compulsion to use the drug is 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.
Bath salts are powerful stimulants that can have profound effects on your brain and body. Like other stimulants, high doses can affect your heart rate, blood pressure, and can lead to cardiac arrest or stroke.
It can also cause paranoia, hallucinations, panic attacks, and excited delirium. These psychological effects can cause you to get up and move into harm’s way while you’re high. You are more likely to hurt yourself than others, but rage and aggression are possible, which can cause you to harm someone else.
High doses of cathinones have also been known to cause dehydration, muscle tissues, and acute kidney failure. Bath salt abuse can be deadly because of the drug directly or because of accidents and injuries caused by intoxication.
Addiction is a chronic disease that affects everyone differently. Due to the gradual improvements in 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 medical detoxification. Medical professionals will continually monitor your health 24/7 throughout your stay. You could be in 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 that staying in a 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.
Bath salts, designer drugs, and other illicit substances are unpredictable and inherently dangerous to use. If you or someone you know has been using illicit stimulants, it’s important to seek addiction treatment as soon as possible.
Addiction is a chronic and progressive disease that is difficult to get over on your own and typically gets worse before it gets better. It may start to affect your mental and physical health, your relationships, your job and finances, and even your legal standing.
Addressing a substance problem early can help you avoid some of these severe issues. Even if you’ve struggled with addiction for a long time, help available. To take your first steps toward recovery, learn more about addiction treatment and your options today.
(2012, December 5). Amphetamine-induced psychosis–a separate diagnostic entity or primary psychosis triggered in the vulnerable? Bramness, J. G., et al Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3554477/
(2012, July 11). Potent Rewarding and Reinforcing Effects of the Synthetic Cathinone 3,4‐Methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV). Watterson, L. R., et al Retrieved from https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1369-1600.2012.00474.x
NIDA for Teens. (2017, March 01) Bath Salts. . Retrieved from https://teens.drugabuse.gov/drug-facts/bath-salts
ABC News. (2012, May 30). Miami Face-Eating Attack Lasted 18 Agonizing Minutes. Tienabeso, S. Retrieved from https://abcnews.go.com/US/miami-face-eating-attack-lasted-18-agonizing-minutes/story?id=16458696
Huffpost. (2012, August 27). Rudy Eugene: No Bath Salts, Only Marijuana Found In Face-Eater Toxicology Tests (VIDEO, PHOTOS). Retrieved from https://www.huffpost.com/entry/rudy-eugene-face-marijuana-medical-examiner-results_n_1632253