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Bath Salts & Addiction | Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Bath salts are a group of drugs that are dangerous and notoriously poorly regulated. Experiencing unpredictable bouts of intense stimulation accompanied by auditory hallucinations is common with their misuse. This sometimes leads to violent outbursts, serious consequences, or even death via overdose.

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Individuals with addictions to bath salts need immediate access to specialist support services due to both the addictive nature of these substances and their inherent dangers. It’s very important to get treatment for addiction to stop their use as soon as possible. 

What Are Bath Salts?

In the context of drugs, bath salts is a slang term used to refer to a group of synthetic drugs that contain cathinones, which are stimulant compounds originally found in the khat plant. In essence, they are a class of psychoactive substances created to mimic the effects of the natural stimulant found in khat leaves. 

These various powders are often labeled as “not for human consumption,” which has allowed them to be freely sold in many stores. Regulations preventing this circumvention of intended law have slowly evolved in an attempt to stop their sale and use. 

This category of drugs gives rise to an array of sensations, such as an increased sense of awareness, euphoria, and sometimes hallucinations. The negative effects of bath salts include paranoia and aggression. At times, severe psychotic behavior, such as a complete temporary break from reality, occurs with bath salts. Because of this, the drug has been linked to overdose deaths. 

Note that bath salts in the drug context are completely unrelated from personal care bath salts that are  actually intended for use in a bath.

Who Abuses Bath Salts?

Teens and young adults are more likely to abuse bath salts than others. While people of all ages use these drugs, designer drug use is most common among men in their 20s.

Each person’s unique life experiences shape their reasons for engaging in drug abuse. Certain commonalities do exist among those who use these drugs recreationally, however.

For instance, some users seeking a heightened state of consciousness or a powerful sense of euphoria through the effects of bath salts may abuse them. Others may turn to them in hopes of enhancing their capabilities in academic or athletic situations. People may use bath salts for the self-treatment of conditions like anxiety, depression, or chronic pain, while others may just succumb to peer pressure or social influence when they otherwise wouldn’t be abusing drugs at all.

People who abuse bath salts are often looking for a euphoric experience or “trip.” Bath salts are often underregulated in many areas and therefore fairly easy to obtain at a relatively low cost. They are often sold as a “legal high,” but this is not true. 

Bath salts should not be considered safe. In fact, they are often more dangerous than comparable illicit alternatives.

How Does Addiction to Bath Salts Form?

Synthetic cathinones can be addictive, although why and to what degree isn’t fully understood. However, animal studies and anecdotal reports from human users have made it clear that the use of bath salts can trigger a strong desire for further use. 

Signs & Symptoms of Bath Salts Addiction

The most clear sign of bath salts addiction is a compulsion to keep using the drugs despite negative effects on life. Other common signs of an addiction to bath salts include the following: 

  • Physical dependence (described in more detail later) 
  • Withdrawing from responsibilities and social activities 
  • Significant and seemingly sudden changes in behavior 
  • Mood swings 
  • A personality shift
  • Agitation 
  • Paranoia 
  • Aggression 
  • Changes in weight 
  • Marks from picking at their skin 
  • Dental issues
  • Digestive problems

Many people who struggle with addiction also have financial problems, both because they must repeatedly pay for drugs and because drug abuse can make it difficult to hold down a steady job.

If you are concerned that someone you know may be addicted to bath salts, encourage them to seek professional help from a healthcare provider or addiction specialist.

How Do Bath Salts Impact the Body & Mind?

Bath salts are synthetic drugs that contain cathinones, which are stimulant compounds that can have a range of effects on the body and mind. 

Some of the ways that bath salts can affect the body and mind include causing intense euphoria in users, problematic psychotic symptoms like paranoia or hallucinations, and troubling changes to a person’s mood and personality, ranging from increased agitation to aggressiveness. This puts individuals at great risk of potential harm. 

Bath salt use can also harm internal systems by causing dehydration and altering electrolyte levels that may result in life-threatening illnesses, such as kidney or heart failure. Notably, extended use of this dangerous stimulant may lead to physical dependency alongside serious psychological complications.

Overall, bath salts can have serious and potentially life-threatening effects on the body and mind, and their use should be avoided. If you or someone you know is struggling with an addiction to bath salts, it is important to seek professional help right away.

Is Dependence on Bath Salts Possible?

Yes, bath salts can cause physical dependence with repeated use over time. Bath salts contain cathinones, which are synthetic stimulants that can produce intense feelings of pleasure and euphoria. This can potentially lead to addiction, although how addictive bath salts may be is poorly studied. 

Repeated use of bath salts can also cause a person to develop a tolerance to the drugs. This means the person needs a higher dose than they once did to achieve the same effect. 

Suddenly stopping bath salt use once you are physically dependent means you will undergo withdrawal. Bath salt withdrawal symptoms include depression, anxiety, fatigue, and intense cravings.

Overdose on Bath Salts

Bath salts carry a significant risk of overdose that comes with serious and potentially life-threatening symptoms. A bath salt overdose can cause agitation and a severe break from reality, making it challenging for both those dealing with it alongside the individual overdosing. 

An overdose can also cause escalating body temperatures resulting in dehydration, along with other adverse outcomes. Heart complications may occur, such as rapid heartbeat, palpitations, and elevated blood pressure, all warning signs indicating possible life-threatening outcomes. 

Excessive consumption of bath salts can lead to kidney failure, which could quickly result in irreversible damage to a person’s health if prompt medical attention isn’t sought. 

Respiratory failure is another potential outcome associated with bath salt use. Some people who overdose on bath salts may also experience seizures.

If you suspect that someone has overdosed on bath salts, call 911. Immediate medical care is necessary to potentially save the person’s life.

How to Stop Abusing Bath Salts

If you’ve been regularly abusing bath salts, you need professional help. An addiction treatment program will help you identify the reasons behind your drug use and build a life that is centered on recovery. 

Here are some steps that will aid your recovery journey:

  • Recognize that you have a problem. Admitting that you have a problem with bath salts is the first step in getting help. Accepting that you need to make a change can be difficult, but it is necessary in order to move forward.
  • Seek professional help. Professional help is usually necessary for bath salts addiction. Bath salts are powerful substances, so it’s often not enough to simply want to stop using them. You need expert help.
  • Limit triggers and temptations. Avoiding situations or people that trigger drug use can be helpful in preventing relapse. This may involve severing relationships with people you used to use bath salts with, changing your daily routine, or avoiding certain social situations.
  • Develop healthy coping strategies. Practicing healthy coping strategies, such as exercise, meditation, or creative activities, can help to manage stress and cravings without turning to drugs.

Make a plan for relapse prevention. Relapse is common in the recovery process, but having a plan in place for how to handle a relapse can help to prevent it from becoming a full-blown return to bath salts abuse.

Updated August 31, 2023
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