Bath Salts Addiction and Recovery Facts

Overview of Bath Salts Use and Abuse


What Are Bath Salts?

Bath salts are an emerging group of synthetic or designer drugs that are chemically similar to cathinone,1 a naturally occurring substance derived from the Catha edulis (khat) plant. It acts as a central nervous system stimulant, much like amphetamine.1, 2

Bath salts are typically distributed as a white or brown powder or in the form of a crystal or liquid. But they are sometimes available in tablet or capsule form.2

They are advertised as a “legal high” or “legal cocaine” and even sold online as actual bath salts (hence the name), jewelry cleaner, plant food or phone screen cleaner.3 Sellers label the product “not for human consumption” to sidestep drug laws.

How They Affect the Brain

Because bath salts are manufactured illegally, their chemical make-up is constantly changing. Still, the most common bath salts produce similar effects to many other stimulants by increasing the activity of 3 neurotransmitters, which are the chemical messengers of the central nervous system:


  • Plays an important role in movement, memory, pleasurable reward, attention, sleep, mood, learning and behavior.


  • Plays an important role in regulating mood, social behavior, appetite, digestion, sleep, memory and sexual desire and function.


  • Responsible for “fight or flight” response.
  • Increases heart rate, blood pressure and blood flow to skeletal muscle.

Banning of Bath Salts Chemicals

In September 2011, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) placed 3 common synthetic cathinones under emergency ban pending further investigation:

  • Mephedrone.
  • Methylone.
  • Methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV).

In July 2012, the DEA classified mephedrone and MDPV as Schedule I substances under the Controlled Substances Act. This means they have no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. They are illegal to possess, use or distribute. Enforcement of the laws is difficult, however, because street chemists continually tweak formulas to evade the DEA.

Treatment Costs and Rehab Options

  • Find programs without insurance. If you are looking for recovery programs that help people without insurance, call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s helpline.
  • Find programs if you have insurance. If you need more information on what your insurance will cover and what your treatment options are, call .

Not all programs cost the same. Factors that affect cost include:

  • Insurance coverage.
  • The length of time you stay in the program.
  • The program’s features.
  • Whether the program is residential, outpatient or 12-step.

Bath Salts Addiction Treatments

  • Outpatient rehabilitation programs. You attend a treatment facility or hospital several times a week to receive group and individual therapy. These programs also may offer detoxification.
  • Inpatient or residential rehabilitation programs. You reside at the treatment center while undergoing a structured program. Many inpatient rehab programs include detox, therapy, psychoeducation and 12-step meetings.
  • 12-step programs. You work through a set of recovery steps with a sponsor. The 12-step program focuses on admitting powerlessness over your addiction and repairing relationships.

In addition to selecting the type of bath salts recovery center, you will want to look at other factors in a program such as cost, location and the expertise of the staff.

Learn more about bath salts addiction treatment and how to choose a program.

Bath Salts Effects

Bath salts can be taken orally, smoked, snorted or injected.

  • When taken orally. The drug is absorbed into the body slowly, so the user may not experience the peak rush for 1.5 hours. These effects may then last anywhere from 3 to 4 hours after ingestion and are followed by the post-high crash.1
  • When smoked snorted or injected. These methods speed up onset of the high. Generally, effects with these methods of administration can be felt within 15 minutes and may last 6-8 hours.2 The worst outcomes of bath salts are associated with snorting or injecting.4

Use of bath salts can be extremely dangerous and life-threatening. In the last decade, the number of emergency room and poison control center visits associated with their consumption has dramatically increased.

Short-Term Effects

The short-term effects of bath salts vary from person to person. But common short-term effects may include:

  • Increased energy.
  • Euphoria.
  • Increased sociability.
  • Increased sex drive.

Side Effects

A number of dangerous effects are associated with bath salt use:

  • Dilated pupils (mydriasis).
  • Headaches.
  • Insomnia.
  • Agitation.
  • Violent behavior.
  • Panic attacks.
  • Suicidal thoughts.
  • Paranoia.
  • Hallucinations.
  • Tremors.
  • Seizures.
  • Increased body temperature (hyperthermia).
  • Rhabdomyolysis (destruction of muscle fibers).
  • Increased heart rate (tachycardia).
  • Increased blood pressure (hypertension).
  • Heart palpitations.
  • Chest pain.
  • Death.


Long-Term Effects

The long-term effects of bath salts remain largely unknown. Little research has been conducted into how bath salts interact with alcohol and other prescription or illicit drugs, or the outcome of mixing several synthetic cathinones, or bath salts.

Each dose may have different chemical properties. But most bath salts are similar to amphetamines, so the long-term effects are likely similar. Some of the long-term effects of amphetamine abuse are as follows:

  • Insomnia.
  • Weight loss.
  • Depression.
  • Financial, marital, familial, personal and relationship problems.
  • Social isolation.
  • Sexual dysfunction.
  • Aggressive behavior.
  • Chaotic behavior. 15
  • Psychosis.12
  • Loss of coordination and physical collapse.12
  • Twitching.
  • Muscle aches.
  • Muscle tissue damage.
  • Kidney damage or failure.
  • Convulsions, coma and death.12
  • Intranasal users. 15
    • Perforated nasal septum.
    • Sinusitis.
    • Bleeding nose.
  • Intravenous users.
    • Collapsed veins.
    • Track lines.
    • Abscesses on arms or legs.
    • HIV or hepatitis. 15
    • Necrotizing fasciitis, a skin infection that kills the body’s tissue. 14
  • Smokers.
    • Bronchitis.
    • Coughing.
    • Pneumonitis.
  • Tolerance (needing to consume more of the drug to feel the same effects).
  • Withdrawal symptoms and intense cravings.

Signs and Symptoms of Addiction

If you or a loved one has displayed at least 2 of the following symptoms over the course of a year, you may have an addiction to bath salts:12
    • Bath salts are consumed in larger amounts or over a longer period than planned.
    • Inability to cut down or quit bath salts use.
    • Large amounts of time spent acquiring bath salts, using bath salts or recovering from the effects of bath salts.
    • An extremely strong desire or urge to use bath salts.
    • Regular use of bath salts resulting in negligence of responsibilities at work, home or school.
    • Social and interpersonal problems are aggravated by abuse of bath salts yet the individual continues to use them anyway.
    • Significant social, occupational or recreational activities are neglected in favor of bath salts use.
    • Repeated bath salts use in physically dangerous situations.
    • Ongoing use of bath salts despite knowledge of having a physical or psychological problem likely caused or worsened by bath salts use.
    • Tolerance: a need for larger amounts of bath salts to achieve intoxication or desired effect or a lesser effect with continued use of the same amount of bath salts.
    • Withdrawal symptoms, which can be relieved by taking more bath salts.

American Addiction Centers has helped thousands recover from addiction and we can help you or your loved one too. Check your insurance to find out instantly if your insurance provider may be able to cover all or part of the cost of rehab and associated therapies. You can also sign up 24/7 text support for addiction questions at your convenience.

How Many People Abuse Them?

The extent of bath salt abuse is difficult to measure. Online user surveys provide most of the available abuse data.2

Abuse in the U.S.

In 2010, bath salts rapidly emerged as a new drug of abuse in the United States. A study published in 2014 from an online survey characterized users as mostly male, 18-24 years old, and Caucasian with some college education.

Abuse in Europe

people in nightclub
In 2009 and 2010, a significant rise in the abuse of bath salts was reported in Western Europe.1,2 In late 2010, a survey reported that bath salts were the fourth-most commonly used drug in the United Kingdom (UK) behind cannabis, ecstasy and cocaine.15

An online survey of club-goers in the UK reported that 41% of those surveyed had used mephedrone.7

Moreover, a third of those surveyed reported that they had used methedrone in the last month, while 10% reported that they used the drug weekly.

Findings from this same survey indicated that 10% of the sample reported using methylone.7

Overdose Symptoms

Bath salts have a high risk of overdose. One of the most profound results of an overdose is an incredibly long duration of some of the more severe mental effects—especially delirium and psychosis—which can last for days or weeks.14

If you suspect a bath salts overdose call 911 or visit the nearest emergency room.

Recent Increase in Overdoses

Bath salts pose an increasing risk to public health, with reports of overdoses and deaths skyrocketing along with calls to poison control centers in the United States. 4

A report by Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration links bath salts to nearly 23,000 emergency room visits in 2011.11 Approximately 66% of the emergency room visits involved bath salts in combination with other drugs.

According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, poison control centers received reports of 587 exposures to bath salts in 2014.

Teen Bath Salts Abuse

In the United Kingdom, a 2010 survey of high school and college students revealed 20% had used bath salts at least once in their lives and 4% reported daily use.7 All of the respondents that reported daily use were under the age of 21. In the United States, the 2014 annual Monitoring the Future Study reported 0.5% of 8th graders and 0.9% of 10th and 12th graders admitted to using bath salts at least once in their lives.6

Finding Treatment for Bath Salts Addiction

Call to speak with a treatment support specialist about finding a bath salts recovery center.