Bath Salts Addiction and Abuse

Recently, there has been an explosion in the use of ‘legal highs’ and new psychoactive substances (NPS). These substances are cheaper, easily accessible alternatives to illicit drugs like cocaine and ecstasy. NPS products are often labelled “not suitable for human consumption” and given deceptive names to avoid detection by law enforcement in the UK and US, where these drugs are especially popular.

Recent findings show that drugs like ecstasy have lost their purity because they are mixed with Bath Salts (a synthetic psychoactive substance) to elicit the same response, at lower quality. Most users are unaware that the synthetic drugs they use are mixed with other substances, which subsequently results in poisoning and increased cases of drug overdoses.

What Are Bath Salts? An overview

Also known as psychoactive Bath Salts (PABS), the name derives from drugs disguised as real Bath Salts in granules, white powder or crystal form (but chemically different). They have also been camouflaged as hookah cleaner, plant food, fertilisers and other products.

The drug is derived from the khat plant that grows in the Arabian Peninsula and parts of East Africa. It produces cathinones, with similar effect to that of amphetamines, which act on the central nervous system.

The chemical components of Bath Salts

People chew cathinones for the mild stimulant effects, but when synthesized, it is much stronger and very dangerous. Bath Salts are made in the form of crystal powder and sold in foil packages or small plastic containers, disguised as phone screen cleaners, Bath Salts or jewellery cleaner. Other brand names include ‘white lightning’,’ lunar wave’ and ‘cloud nine’.

The exact effect of the drug is unknown, but the chemicals and compounds used in making them mimic recreational drugs like MDMA, methamphetamine and LSD, leading to similar effects such as euphoria, aggression, dilated pupils, seizures, high blood pressure and psychosis.

How Bath Salts addiction develops: Who is most at risk?

Risk factors include:

  • Biological factors – having parents who abused drugs
  • Environment – growing up in an environment where drug use is normal
  • Dual diagnosis – diagnosis of mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder or borderline personality disorder
  • Polydrug use disorder – combining Bath Salts with other stimulants and substances to increase the potency of the ‘high’
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Why are Bath Salts addictive?

Most people take Bath Salts because they are cheap, inexpensive and easy to obtain. Recreational drug users who are low on cash can get their supply by placing their order online or from their local drug dealer. The effects are similar to popular drugs like cocaine, ecstasy and crystal meth, so it’s a relatively affordable ‘high’ to maintain.

Although the precise chemical composition of Bath Salts can vary, chemicals similar to cathinone found in Bath Salts include methylenedioxypyrovalerone, mephedrone and methylone. The reason Bath Salts are so addictive is the positive effect of the drug, which includes feelings of euphoria, reduced appetite, increased energy and intensified sensory experiences.

How Bath Salts are abused

You can snort, sniff, swallow or inject Bath Salts. Smoking is mostly unheard of and snorting and ‘shooting’ are the most popular routes of taking this drug.

Signs and symptoms of Bath Salts abuse

Signs of Bath Salts abuse include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Dilated pupils
  • Loss of appetite
  • Change in sleeping patterns
  • Erratic behaviour
  • Poor physical hygiene
  • Drop in performance at work and school

Physical, emotional and social effects of Bath Salts abuse

Using stimulants affects both your physical and mental health. When you’re ‘high’ on the drug, you feel happy, relaxed and euphoric, but after the effects wear off, you’ll feel depressed, unable to feel pleasure, irritated, and anxious. You’ll lose confidence, have a poor self-image and your relationships with friends, loved ones and family will suffer, as you isolate yourself to use drugs.

Short-term effects of Bath Salts abuse

The immediate short-term effect of abusing Bath Salts includes feeling of euphoria, relaxation and calm. Other effects include enhanced empathy, improved social skills, increased energy and alertness, increased libido and reduced appetite.

When you come down from the ‘high’, negative effects can include headaches, blurred vision, anxiety, seizures, chest pain, erratic behaviour, confusion, suicidal ideation, auditory and visual hallucinations, drowsiness, nausea and vomiting.

Long-term effects of Bath Salts abuse

The long-term effects of using Bath Salts include serious side effects such as overdose, complications from withdrawal, medical conditions and death.

Serious long-term side effects include delirium, liver failure, severe depression, psychosis, malnutrition, heart problems, ulcers, bone pain and kidney damage.

If you inject Bath Salts, effects can include gangrene, skin erosion, vein blockage, blood clots and increased risk of hepatitis, HIV and other contagious diseases.

Important facts and figures about Bath Salts addiction and abuse

There was an increase in calls to poison control centres regarding Bath Salts in 2011. The numbers rose from 304 in 2010 to 6,136 in 2011.

A UK survey carried out in 2010 revealed that Bath Salts were the fourth most commonly abused drug in the UK (after Cannabis, Ecstasy and Cocaine)

Synthetic cathinones – while similar to illicit drugs like cocaine – produce ten times more powerful effects.

Bath Salts addiction treatment

Bath Salts addiction is a very serious issue, because most of the compounds used to make the drug are unknown. The first stage of treatment is detox to rid your body of harmful toxins. After the Bath Salts detox, you can attend outpatient or inpatient Bath Salts addiction treatment.

Rehab provides the unique opportunity to understand why you abused drugs and learn coping skills for dealing with triggers and stressors, without resorting to drug use. Programmes in drug rehabilitation include relapse prevention plan, education, skills classes, individual therapy, support groups and group counselling.

Get clean and stop your Bath Salts abuse today

Not enough research has been carried out to fully understand the compounds in Bath Salts or their full effects on your brain and body. The effects range from panic attacks, paranoia, depression and seizures. Quitting Bath Salts reduces the risk of personal harm, may reverse damage done to your brain, reduces the risk of mental and physical health issues and improves your relationships with loved ones.

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How are Bath Salts abused?

Since Bath Salts have no medical use, all usage is termed as substance abuse. Bath Salts are abused by snorting, smoking, injecting and mixing them with other illicit drugs to increase the potency of the’ ‘high’.

What are the side effects of Bath Salts?

Side effects include hallucinations, paranoia, lowered sex drive, lowered inhibitions, panic attacks and confusion.

What are the effects of Bath Salts abuse?

Effects of bath salt abuse include dizziness, ulcers, psychosis, mood disorder, lack of coordination, malnutrition and heart problems.

Which type of Bath Salts addiction treatment is right for you?

The right addiction programme depends on the severity of your addiction and personal needs during treatment. Inpatient treatment is ideal if you’re a long-term drug user, have polydrug use disorder or mental health issues. If you have a mild addiction to Bath Salts, without any co-occurring disorders or medical conditions and you have a strong support system, outpatient treatment might be a better fit.

Are Bath Salts legal?

Bath Salts are called ‘legal highs’ because manufacturers use deceptive labels to produce and ship the drug, avoiding detection from customs and law enforcement who think they are plant food or actual bath salts.

What are the symptoms of Bath Salts addiction?

Symptoms of BathSaltsaddiction include excited delirium, acute psychosis, extreme agitation, dehydration, violent behaviour, high blood pressure, rapid heart rate, dilated pupils and craving for BathSalts.

Who Abuses Bath Salts?

Synthetic cathinones are mostly abused by people looking for a cheap high, with easy access.

Is the rate of Bath Salts addiction growing?

Due to public awareness on the health risk of using Bath Salts, the rate of addiction has significantly reduced in recent years. There were over 6,000 calls to poison control centres in 2011, but the number reduced to 382 in 2016.

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