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How to Stop Bath Salts Cravings, Prevent Relapse and Find Help

Bath salts are synthetic drugs that share a number of similarities with other drugs such as amphetamines, cocaine and MDMA. 1 They can be addictive, and have a number of severe, potentially dangerous side effects. Many users who abuse bath salts experience cravings when they try to quit.

Bath Salts Cravings Signs and Symptoms

Bath salts are synthetic drugs that resemble cathinone, a stimulant chemical found in the khat plant. Despite the chemical resemblance, bath salts can be much stronger and more dangerous than natural cathinones. The strength of bath salts is often unpredictable due to varying degrees of production quality. However, their heightened average relative potency may contribute to their addictive potential.

People can snort, swallow, smoke or inject bath salts. Hallucinations, paranoia, increased sociability, increased sex drive, panic attacks, extreme aggression and even death can occur after using them. 1

People who abuse bath salts often have intense cravings when they attempt to stop using them. 1 Generally, a craving is experienced as a strong urge to use bath salts. The cravings experienced during bath salts withdrawal may be accompanied by several other physical and psychological symptoms. Physical symptoms include tremors and problems sleeping. Mental health issues such as depression, paranoia and anxiety sometimes also occur during withdrawal, and these may lead a user to seek the drug to relieve these symptoms.

Cravings may be triggered by people, places, or things that the user associates with bath salts use. A user tends to be more sensitive to triggers during withdrawal and early recovery, but triggers can arise even after the user has been abstinent for months or even years. One of the most important parts of managing cravings is to identify triggers and find ways to cope with them.

The onset of cravings and length of time cravings last vary from person to person. The duration and intensity of bath salt cravings are not well-researched. However, cravings for similar drugs such as cocaine usually dissipate within an hour of their onset if the substance is not used. 2

Therapies and Treatments for Bath Salt Cravings

Cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT is one of the more common therapies used to treat bath salt cravings and addiction. CBT employs a number of techniques to help users manage cravings, including:
  • Talking about cravings. Bringing the fear and anxiety associated with cravings out into the open can help the person avoid giving in to them.
  • Embracing the cravings. This technique helps a person to experience and learn to cope with cravings rather than try to fight them. The therapist urges the person with the craving to find a safe place to experience and concentrate on it, such as by focusing on where the craving is located, how it feels and how intense it is. Concentrating on the craving can often reduce its intensity.
  • Recalling the consequences of using bath salts. Users are taught to think about specific, negative experiences with bath salts when cravings for the drug arise. Cue cards can even be created that list the negative effects associated with drug use. Reading them during a craving can help avoid relapse.
  • Using self-talk. Many times, people are unaware of the automatic thoughts they have about giving in to a craving. They might think, “I have to use, or I can’t make it.” CBT teaches the person with cravings that cravings are normal, and people get through them all the time. Challenging these thoughts can reduce their power. For example, the person might think, “I won’t really die if I don’t use bath salts.” 2
  • Identifying triggers. CBT uses the strategy of “recognize, avoid and cope” to identify triggers, avoid them, and find ways to cope with triggers that are unavoidable. Triggers can vary from person to person. One person might visit a store where he or she used to buy and use bath salts. Another might carry large amounts of cash, which can tempt him or her to purchase the drug.

Recovery Programs to Help With Cravings

People who are trying to overcome bath salts addiction and are worried about relapse can also seek formal treatment. Types of treatment for bath salts addiction include:

  • Inpatient recovery programs: Inpatient treatment for bath salts cravings and addiction will likely include individual and group therapy, medically supervised detoxification, medical supervision and aftercare planning. You live at the treatment center while you are in the program, but many programs allow visitors and may involve the person’s family in treatment.
  • Outpatient recovery programs: Outpatient treatment usually includes individual and group counseling.
  • Group therapy: The group structure allows a person to be with others in recovery in a healthy environment that is free from substance abuse. Group therapy also provides an opportunity for a user to see other people in recovery who can be role models.3 Someone who enters a recovery program and has only been free from substance abuse for 2 or 3 days may find inspiration in someone who has been in recovery for 2 weeks or longer. They can also pick up tips from others on how to deal with cravings.
  • Individual counseling: Individual therapy is another form of treatment found in many addiction programs. When individual therapy is incorporated into a treatment program, it will most often be in the form of cognitive behavioral therapy. CBT promotes the idea that behavior is the result of thinking patterns. Behaviors are changed when these thought patterns are changed. Therapy focuses on recognizing thought patterns that lead to drug use, then interrupting them and helping the user develop healthier, more productive patterns.
  • Teen recovery programs: Adolescents have different needs than adults in substance abuse treatment, and numerous programs focus on helping teens. Working with teens’ families is crucial to their treatment and recoveryMultidimensional family therapy is an approach that is used by many treatment providers to address an adolescent’s substance abuse issues, as well as the aspects of family functioning.4
  • Dual diagnosis recovery programs: Many people with substance abuse issues also have a co-occurring mental health diagnosis. Ideally, treatment should address both conditions. Dual diagnosis or co-occurring disorders programs treat both substance abuse and the individual’s mental health needs in one setting.
  • 12-step programs: Twelve-step programs, which are free, are offered around the country and help people in recovery to maintain sobriety. Twelve-step groups are also an important component of aftercare following both inpatient and outpatient substance abuse treatment.

How to Stop Urges Naturally

No natural herbs or other cures are known to help stop cravings for bath salts. But users can take advantage of other natural methods to help manage cravings. In particular, many people find relief in yoga, exercise and meditation.

  • Yoga.Yoga can help a user focus on something other than cravings. It also serves as a healthy activity that improves flexibility and wellbeing.
  • Exercise. Developing a plan that involves physical exercise when a craving hits can help to alleviate the craving. Exercise can also help provide a physical release of anxiety and tension.
  • Meditation. Meditation and mindfulness techniques can help a person relax and learn how to let a craving pass instead of giving in to it. These techniques can also help calm your mind when you become stressed about a craving.

Cravings and Relapse

Cravings for drugs such as bath salts can be intense, and working to avoid relapse is critical in the process of recovery. Being aware of the warning signs of relapse and having a plan if the signs appear will go a long way toward maintaining sobriety.

Some common warning signs or events that can trigger a relapse include:

  • Going back to friends who use substances. One of the most difficult things about recovery is avoiding old friends who continue to use drugs. But associating with people who continue to use can trigger cravings to use. 2
  • Experiencing major crises, such as a death in the family or the loss of a relationship. Many major life events are unavoidable, so people in recovery should have a plan to cope with them when they occur. They should work with their sponsors or another supportive person to develop a coping plan to seek extra support, such as with a counselor or a therapist, to help avoid relapse during a life crisis.
  • Stopping attendance at 12-step or other support groups after a period of recovery. People in recovery may begin to feel that they can make it on their own and no longer need continued support from peers. This is frequently an early sign of possible relapse. Someone who has a system of continued support will generally fare better than someone who has stopped attending meetings.
  • Being isolated and alone. If a recovering person is spending a lot of time by themselves, they may be tempted to use again as a way to fill the void. Staying in contact with others in a supportive environment helps avoid using drugs such as bath salts out of loneliness.

Using Aftercare to Prevent Relapse

Completing a treatment program is merely the first step in the recovery process. Aftercare and support groups are a vital part of ongoing recovery and relapse prevention. Aftercare is follow-up care a recovering user receives after leaving a treatment program and can include 12-step programs, sober living arrangements or counseling.

Continuing to attend aftercare provides people recovering from bath salt addiction with a way to cope with cravings and to avoid relapse when they feel isolated or overwhelmed by life events. Many 12-step programs include sponsors, who are further along in their recovery and can help recovering users when they feel strong cravings. Sponsors make themselves available for phone calls and meetings when support is needed.

Find a Recovery Center

Whether you have concerns about your own addiction to bath salts or are seeking help for a family member or friend, call today. Our treatment support specialists will help you locate a treatment center in your area that best suits your needs and is covered by your insurance.

If you do not have health insurance, call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) for referrals to low-cost or free programs in your area.

[1]. National Institute on Drug Abuse (2016). Drug Facts: Synthetic Cathinones “Bath Salts.”

[2]. National Institute on Drug Abuse (2005). A Cognitive-Behavioral Approach: Treating Cocaine Addiction: Topic 1: Coping With Craving.

[3]. Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. Substance Abuse Treatment: Group Therapy. Rockville (MD): Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (US); (Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series, No. 41.) 1 Groups and Substance Abuse Treatment.

[4]. National Institute on Drug Abuse (2016). Treatment Approaches for Drug Addiction.