Health Effects of Bath Salts: What You Need to Know

24 Aug Health Effects of Bath Salts: What You Need to Know

These days, when people are discussing bath salts, odds are, they are talking about the drug and not taking a bath. Bath salts are referred to as such due to their similarity to actual bath salts, such as Epsom salt, commonly used in baths. These drugs are part of the same chemical family as cathinone, which is a natural stimulant that can be found in the Khat plant in the Middle East or Somalia. The leaves of the Khat plant are chewed to produce a euphoric and arousing high. While their structure is quite similar, the synthetic aspect of bath salts chemical makeup tends to be more intoxicating and harder to measure than naturally occurring cathinone. As a result, taking bath salts can very quickly lead to overdose and death.

Health officials have recently added bath salts to a group of emerging synthetic drugs called “new psychoactive substances.” Such drugs have really only begun to hit the street in the last decade and are created in labs to have a similar chemical structure to other psychoactive drugs on the market. They are made to be temporarily legal substitutes for a short period of time, and when the law catches on, the drugs’ producers simply make alterations to the recipe to skirt new drug laws on the books. As a result, two people can technically have bath salts, but be taking basically taking two completely different drugs. While this makes it more difficult on the police, the danger truly lies in the users having no baseline to judge what they are taking and how much they can take. A regular dose of one “brand” of bath salt might be too much or too little of another.

The first reports of bath salts emerge from Europe in the mid-2000’s. Soon, they crossed the Atlantic, entered through Florida and spread north and west. Prior to 2009, there was not a single reported case from U.S. poison control centers having to do with bath salts. A year later, there were approximately 300 overdoses or criminal reports. By 2011, there was roughly 2250 bath salt-related medical emergencies. In response, the DEA banned the three most common chemicals that make up bath salts. But as mentioned above, manufacturers simply changed the formula and skirted the new laws. Bath salts are extremely dangerous and can even turn fatal for the user. Because of this, it is vital that you know about the health risks of bath salts, the signs of use and what to do if you or a loved one is suffering from a bath salt addiction in Georgia.

What Are Bath Salts?

People turn to drugs for a variety of reasons, and quite often, they will take different drugs for a different feeling or a different setting. Typically, people take downers to relax or go to sleep, and uppers to party. With bath salts, unfortunately, they are sold and promoted as ideal alternatives to ecstasy, cocaine, molly, and methamphetamines. Even if they are nothing alike, there is no way for the buyer to know until after taking the drug.

Synthetic cathinones are human-engineered stimulants created to replicate the chemical structure of the natural stimulant cathinone found in the leaves of the Middle Eastern khat plant. For thousands of years, indigenous peoples of those lands have used the plant for stimulant purposes. By chewing on the leaf, the user would soon experience extended feelings of energy, euphoria, and alertness. Because of this, it was quite a popular method for soldiers to stay awake or focused on guard duty or in the middle of a drawn-out battle. With synthetic cathinones, however, the effects are magnified and often times uncontrollable. This becomes even more difficult to measure since the potency of each batch is not consistently the same, but can vary wildly depending upon the cook and the ingredients used. To make matters worse, these other ingredients might cause their own detrimental effects and the only way to know this is by testing the drug in a lab. As you might imagine, this can be extremely dangerous for the user since they never know exactly what to expect from one dose to the next.

Generally, bath salts take the form of a brown or white powder, although sometimes they are crystallized. They are packaged and sold in such a way as to make them look above board, or legal. Their packaging might say, “Plant food,” “Jewelry cleaner,” “Cleaner,” or, “Not for human consumption.” Once purchased, the powder can be taken in a variety of ways including smoking it out of foil or in a crack pipe, snorting the powder like cocaine, injecting intravenously or swallowing the substance, although the final method does not work nearly as well. Like with most other drugs, the most dangerous methods of consumption are injection and nasal inhalation since the drugs enter directly into the bloodstream.

Quite often, bath salts and its offshoots are marketed as substitutes for Molly (MDMA) and other similar party drugs. Since they look identical, it is quite common for people looking for Molly to wind up with bath salts, unbeknownst to them. In 2012, Floridan crime labs tested thousands of ecstasy capsule and found that most contained methylome, a deadly synthetic cathinone. This can often lead to fatal results since a regular dose of Molly might be far safer than a similarly sized dose of bath salts; not to mention, the highs the user receives will be very different, thus causing anxiety, panic, and possible overdose. Common street names for bath salts include bliss, cloud nine, lunar wave, vanilla sky, white thunder, and white lightning.

What Can Bath Salts Do to You And Your Brain?

Research into this subject is still somewhat limited, especially since batches of bath salts can vary wildly in their chemical make-up and structure. They do share characteristics of amphetamines, coke and, molly, so there will be some similar chemical reactions leading to feelings of amplified energy and alertness. Bath salts typically act upon the brain by inhibiting dopamine reuptake and sending a rush of dopamine directly into the control and reward center of the brain, leading to extreme euphoria. They also raise serotonin levels leading to hallucinogenic effects similar to drugs like LSD or MDMA.

Synthetic cathinones in bath salts can lead to feelings of:

The effects from Bath salts generally last three to four hours before the user begins to come down and crash. The entirety of the experience lasts typically somewhere from six to eight hours. Users report feelings of:

  • Agitation
  • Alertness
  • Anxiety
  • Aggression
  • Decreased appetite
  • Hallucinations
  • Joy
  • Increased social interaction
  • Increased sex drive
  • Paranoia
  • Nervousness

Bath Salts and the Body

In 2011, bath salts accounted for approximately 23,000 emergency room visits, reporting problems such as heart issues, high blood pressure, chest pains, paranoia, hallucinations, and panic attacks.

Symptoms and short-term effects during use include:

  • Chest pains
  • Confusion
  • Delusions
  • Depression
  • Hallucinations, both visual and auditory
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Increased body temperature or chills
  • Increased heart rate
  • Kidney pain
  • Muscle tension
  • Nausea
  • Nosebleeds
  • Panic attacks
  • Paranoia
  • Psychosis
  • Reduced appetite
  • Self-mutilation
  • Suicidal ideas

In addition to desired effects, there are many dangerous side effects tied to the use of bath salts. Such adverse effects can be seen almost immediately and do not require regular use. Some of these adverse effects can lead to death if left untreated. Such physical side effects include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Anorexia
  • Blurred vision
  • Chest pain
  • Confusion
  • Dilated pupils
  • Drowsiness
  • Erratic behavior
  • Headaches
  • High blood pressure
  • Increased heart rate
  • Increase risk for heart attacks and strokes
  • Nausea and abdominal pain
  • Seizures
  • Tingling in the extremities (paresthesia)

Long-Term Effects of Use

The long-term effects of bath salts can lead to dangerous side effects that can lead to long-term injury or even death. On top of being addictive, bath salts can lead to perilous and unpredictable behavior that could turn in to mood disorders or various forms of psychoses. Such mood disorders can lead to states of depression and an increase in suicidality. Delerium and self-mutilation are everyday occurrences for people who are addicted to bath salts.  

Side effects of long-term use include:

  • Addiction
  • Bone pain
  • Dizziness
  • Heart problems
  • Kidney damage
  • Liver failure
  • Loss of coordination
  • Malnutrition
  • Mood disorders
  • Psychosis
  • Psychosis
  • Severe depression
  • Tolerance
  • Ulcers

For users who inject bath salts, there are additional side effects that stem from the intravenous application of bath salts. Such toxic effects include:

  • Abscesses
  • Blood clots
  • Gangrene
  • Increased risk of HIV, hepatitis, and other blood-borne illnesses
  • Infection at the injection sites
  • Skin erosion
  • Vein blockage

Signs of Bath Salt Addiction and Use

If you have a loved one in your life exhibiting the following symptoms, that may be a sign that they are currently using bath salts. It should be noted that signs and symptoms are similar to that of a cocaine addict, but with some minor differences. Below are several signs to keep an eye out for:

  • Aggression/Violent Behavior – Over aggression is a typical adverse effect of bath salt addiction and use. Because of the way the drug sends the body through such a gamut of feelings and emotions, combined with the natural hyperthermia that occurs leads to the user’s brain not functioning normally. This leads to erratic behavior, a lack of patience, and lack of control over emotions. If a loved one is displaying violent or unpredictable/aggressive behavior untypical of their usual selves, that could be a sign that they are using. If they are loud and violent, it is advisable not to approach them or give them a reason to act out on violent impulses, but to wait for them to come down from the drug.
  • Grinding of teeth – Like cocaine, users under the influence of bath salts will experience bruxism, which is clenched jaw and teeth grinding. This grinding of the jaw can also lead to tooth damage.
  • Intense Euphoria – Bath salts tend to reproduce similar effects of molly and ecstasy due to the massive dopamine release into the pleasure and reward centers of the brain. The user will act overly loving, or emotional, their eyes may roll into the back of their head, or they may be unable to communicate clearly.
  • Intense Energy – Like cocaine, bath salts reproduce an amphetamine-like effect on one’s energy levels and intensity. Individuals under the influence of bath salts will have an overabundance of energy; they will speak fast, flit from subject to subject or task to task.
  • Keys with powder residue – The easiest way to take bath salts is snorting through the nostrils. Quite often, especially in public or social settings, a user will dip their key into the powder and snort the powder off the key. The residue of the powder might remain if the user forgets to lick off the remaining powder.
  • Nasal Damage – If the user typically snorts bath salts, they may exhibit nasal effects such as a bloody nose, perforated nasal septum, and sinusitis.
  • Sudden Weight Loss – Bath salts tend to ruin the user’s appetite or make them not hungry. A regular bath salt user over time will likely experience dramatic weight loss.
  • Psychosis – Bath salt addicts who take too large a dose regularly report experiences of paranoia, delusions, and hallucinations, both visual and auditory. A user who is disconnected from reality or displaying erratic behavior can be a danger to themselves or others.  

Conclusion

Bath salts are far more dangerous and unpredictable than other popular recreational drugs. They can be deadly and cause long-term damage to both the brain and the body. If you or a loved one is fighting a bath salt addiction, act quickly and decisively to get help. Speak with a healthcare professional to see what treatment options are available.

For more help on finding a rehab center in Georgia, please give us a call today. Georgia Drug Detox offers a team of trained and experienced staff to help you gain sobriety and start down the road to recovery.

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