Bath salts typically come in a brownish or white crystal or powder form and are packaged to seem like they are a legal substance like “jewelry cleaner” to avoid regulation by the U.S. Food And Drug Administration (FDA). The drug is either snorted, injected, swallowed or smoked, with injection and inhalation presenting the most danger for overdose or death. While its use has subsided from the “craze” of past years, similar formulas appear on the market as “Molly” or “Flakka.”
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) is the standard tool for clinical professionals and researchers for the classification of mental health and substance use disorders. The DSM-5 criteria for Stimulant Use Disorder outline the dangers of use, abuse, and dependence upon these and other substances in the same class.
Review some of the following to see if they apply to you, or someone you love:
Unfortunately, the numbers illustrate how few people actually get the help they need. In general, less than 10% of the people needing substance use treatment are able to benefit from quality detox followed by a long-term treatment program to address their substance use, as well as the underlying factors.
Bath salts refer to a type of synthetic cathinones or man-made stimulants. Cathinones occur naturally in a plant called khat, which is grown in parts of southern Arabia and East Africa. Cathinones are considered mild stimulants; however, the synthetic versions of cathinones can be extremely dangerous. Two of the most common synthetic cathinones are Mephedrone and Methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV), coined bath salts.
The brain and the body are constantly seeking harmony to function well. The medical term is homeostasis, and it means that when anything disrupts the CNS, efforts must be made to return to a certain level of stability. For example, when the body becomes hot from exercise or being outside in the sun, we sweat in an effort to cool off or reach the previous level of homeostasis.
Using bath salts will interfere with the CNS’ ability to return to a balanced state.
Everything we do affects our central nervous system. The foods we eat, how much sleep we get, the quality of the air and water we ingest, even things like stress and unseen toxins in cleaning products will have some kind of an effect.
Bath salts act as a central nervous system stimulant, similar to cocaine or methamphetamines. While the effects of cocaine and other amphetamines are relatively well understood, the research on bath salts has been difficult to track. They are responsible for preventing the reuptake of neurotransmitters dopamine (associated with feelings of euphoria) and norepinephrine (involved in the stress response).
Variations in the duration of effects and length of time to recover from withdrawal symptoms are common; however, there is relatively little official data on bath salts use, dependence and addiction. Most of the data available are dependent upon user reports or clinical reports.
Whether the bath salts are snorted, smoked, injected, or taken orally, the following are some signs or symptoms to be aware of:
Bath salts withdrawal is dangerous and should not be taken on alone, particularly when other substances are involved like benzodiazepines or alcohol.
The extent and severity of the withdrawal symptoms will depend on the type, frequency, and amount of bath salts used by the individual. Typically the experience of withdrawal involves the opposite of the effect the drug produced. For example, because we know bath salts act to increase heart rate and other autonomic nervous system functions, during withdrawal, those activities would be reversed, resulting in tachycardia or lethargy.
Given the fast-acting properties, symptoms for bath salts are typically acute. Withdrawal symptoms usually begin within a few hours to a few days after the last use and can include:
Because of the potential for misdiagnosis, it is critical that medical or addiction professionals rule out prior psychotic behaviors.
When medically managed, most withdrawal symptoms are alleviated within five to seven days. However, it is important to note that treatment following a medically managed detox will result in a better success rate. Safely removing the bath salts from the brain and body is only the first step. There are other psychological, emotional, and behavioral issues to address that will set you up for continued sobriety.
It is critical to get the help you need to successfully manage withdrawal symptoms and begin a life without the use of bath salts. Long-term use can negatively affect many aspects of daily living, such as memory, mood, and concentration.
The length of these symptoms will vary from one person to another. The symptoms are going to be influenced by how long someone was using bath salts, the amount they used each time, and if they were using other drugs in conjunction with bath salts — the symptoms would range between 48 hours and one week.
As time goes on, the symptoms are going to decrease gradually. While the physical symptoms will subside in this range of time, other people may experience psychological symptoms that continue to persist for several weeks.
Unfortunately, resisting the urge to use bath salts is going to be extremely difficult. For those starting the long path toward recovery, it will be in your best interest to surround yourself with a group of medical professionals. Bath salts are not heavily studied, and the withdrawal symptoms can often be unpredictable. For that reason, you must consider a NCBI and staff to oversee your withdrawal process.
Studies have shown that bath salts impact our brains similarly to cocaine, but the effects are ten times more potent. As you’d expect from amphetamines or stimulant drugs, bath salts will alter the body chemical composition, and trigger a whole host of side effects. It is because bath salts alter the functions of our central nervous system (CNS) and disrupt neurotransmitters. As your bath salt usage increases or remains consistent, the body and brain become acclimated to its presence – the body will adjust accordingly.
Addiction is likely to occur, but the short-term effects we’ve mentioned can be just as damaging. With so many adverse side effects to consider, stopping bath salts will dramatically improve the quality of your life. Before you can achieve that process, however, you have to allow the drugs to exit your body. Once this occurs, your body can begin to heal itself and reap the benefits of a life free from bath salts. Let’s take a look at the treatment process.
The withdrawal from bath salts can be dangerous. Individuals suffer symptoms ranging from mild to severe, and may even be potentially fatal, so it is critical to seek appropriate treatment. When seeking treatment, it’s important to understand the difference between the various levels of care so you can get the most out of your treatment experience.
Medical detoxification, or simply detox, is a medically managed detoxification from bath salts. Following a thorough history and physical examination, the medical staff will determine the best medication protocol to manage your withdrawal symptoms safely.
Depending on the severity and extent of drug use, a detox from bath salts may take up to seven days and is up to the discretion of the medical providers. Medical complications, using more than one substance, or a history of mental health diagnoses are all examples of when a detox may take longer than usual. Treatment centers will require you to successfully complete detox to safely and fully participate in their ongoing programs.
Detox can take place in a hospital setting if you have severe or unmanageable medical complications, or it can take place in a standalone detox facility. These standalone, privately run facilities must be staffed 24 hours a day with medical personnel, as well as support staff, to monitor your symptoms and ensure the safest, most comfortable experience possible. Specially trained staff will know how to observe your progress throughout the detox process and will be able to respond to any potentially life-threatening situations.
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Residential treatment typically follows a successful detox and involves living on-site and participating in a variety of therapy. Individual sessions with a trained therapist, as well as group and family therapy sessions, are some of what is required at each residential facility. It’s during this time whenyou will be examining patterns of thoughts, emotions, and behaviors that may have contributed to your substance use. Residential treatment length of stay will vary depending on your needs, but can typically last from 30 – 90 days following the detox.
Outpatient treatment is intended for those individuals who are in a more stable position medically, physically, and emotionally. After the support from detox and residential care, the activities of daily living on your own are more manageable, and you will remain involved with outpatient treatment to continue your journey of recovery. You will continue to participate in therapy on a less frequent basis, and maintain connections with your support system and therapist. This is an important part of your recovery, as it will allow you to transition to the next phase of your life with the support that played such a beneficial role.
In a recovery treatment program, you will be able to address the physical, psychological, medical, and social aspects of bath salts use or addiction. You will also learn, through various therapeutic tools, how to manage your addictive behaviors effectively and maintain long-term sobriety.
This is done through a customized treatment plan, which you will customize with your therapist, and may include some of the following common treatment modalities:
Synthetic Legal Intoxicating Drugs: The Emerging Incense and Bath Salt Phenomenon. Available from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/223986197_Synthetic_Legal_Intoxicating_Drugs_The_Emerging_Incense_and_Bath_Salt_Phenomenon
Stimulants. (2018, August 01). Retrieved from https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/289007-overview#a3
What is Homeostasis? (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/what-is-homeostasis/
The National Center for Biotechnology Information. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK64119/