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Bath Salts Addiction and Finding Treatment

There are several man-made substances known as synthetic cathinones, commonly known as bath salts, which are misused by people across the country.1

Research shows that:4

  • In 2020, approximately 118,000 people ages 12 and older used synthetic stimulants within the past year.
  • In 2020, less than 0.1% of adolescents aged 12-17 reported using a synthetic stimulant within the past year.
  • Among adults aged 18-15 years old, 0.1% of people reported using synthetic stimulants in 2020.

This article will cover what bath salts are, their effects, their addictive potential, and available treatment options if you or someone you love is struggling with an addiction to bath salts.

What Are Bath Salts?

Bath salts are synthetic cathinones, a man-made stimulant that is chemically related to cathinones, and fall under a classification of substances known as new psychoactive substances (NPS).

Synthetic cathinones are substances found in the khat plant, which is commonly found in southern Arabia and East Africa. Khat leaves are chewed because they produce a mild stimulant effect.1 Bath salts are much stronger than the leaves, and they can be extremely dangerous.1

Bath salts serve no medical purpose, are not regulated, and can cause mind-altering and stimulant effects, which are intended to mimic the effects of cocaine, PCP, LSD, and methamphetamine but at a much cheaper cost.1

Bath salts are made and sold as a white or brown crystal-like powder, and they are usually packaged in small foil or plastic packets and labeled with “not safe for human consumption.”1

Synthetic cathinones like bath salts may also be known as:1

  • Jewelry cleaner.
  • Phone screen cleaner.
  • Plant food.
  • Bath salts.

Bath salts can be ingested in several ways including:1

  • Snorting.
  • Smoking.
  • Swallowing.
  • Injecting.

Bath salts are often used as an alternative to other stimulants that can be more expensive, such as cocaine and amphetamines.1 Bath salts are also sometimes mixed with other substances such as Molly (a street name for MDMA).1

Manufacturers of bath salts are constantly presenting and re-presenting the drug onto the market to try and evade law enforcement officials who try to prevent their manufacture and sale.1

What Is Flakka?

Flakka, or alpha-PVP, is like bath salts and is made into a pink or white crystal substance. It is extremely dangerous when ingested.2 It is referred to as gravel and can be injected, eaten, snorted, or used as a vapor in e-cigarettes.2

Like bath salts, flakka is an illicitly manufactured, synthetic substance that is constantly introduced and re-introduced into the marketplace to avoid detection.3 Additionally, like bath salts, flakka is also part of the cathinone classification.3 Both flakka and bath salts are considered synthetic stimulants.4

Are Bath Salts Addictive?

Studies confirm that bath salts can be addictive, and people have reported developing an intense urge to use the substance repeatedly.1 People may also experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop using synthetic cathinones like bath salts. Common withdrawal symptoms can include:1

  • Tremors.
  • Anxiety.
  • Depression.
  • Insomnia and difficulty sleeping.
  • Paranoia.

Repeated substance use can change the brain’s structure and functioning, particularly the areas of the brain that are responsible for self-control, reward, and stress.5

Effects of Bath Salts

More research is needed to fully understand the effects of bath salts on the brain and body.1 However, scientists have determined that bath salts are similar in chemical makeup to amphetamines such as MDMA and cocaine.1

Bath salts impact everyone differently; however, one variable that significantly impacts the effects is the method of ingestion.1 For example, the most severe effects are associated with injecting or snorting bath salts.1

The effects of bath salts can range in severity and can impact you on a physical and psychological level. They can be short-term or long-term in nature. Short-term effects of bath salts can include:1

  • Paranoia.
  • Increased friendliness.
  • Hallucinations.
  • Panic attacks.
  • Increased libido.
  • Violent behavior.
  • Extreme agitation.

Long-term effects of bath salts include:

  • Dehydration.
  • Kidney failure.
  • Muscle tissue collapse.
  • Increased blood pressure.
  • Increased heart rate.
  • Chest pain.

Bath salts can also lead to serious health problems, including:6

  • Seizures.
  • Overdose.
  • Death.

Support and Treatment for Bath Salt Addiction

If you are struggling with addiction to bath salts or other substances, help is available to you. There are several different treatment settings and interventions that are available to help treat substance use disorders. Effective addiction treatment programs should tailor a treatment plan to your specific needs.7

More research needs to be done on the best types of treatment for bath salt misuse. However, behavioral therapy may be an effective approach to treatment.1 Types of behavioral therapies may include:1, 7

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy. Helps people recognize, avoid, and effectively deal with situations that may lead to drug or alcohol use.
  • Motivational interviewing. Harnesses a person’s level of motivation to help them make healthy changes and end their addiction.
  • Multidimensional family therapy. Intended to treat the entire family and improve overall family functioning.
  • Motivational incentives (contingency management). Provides tangible rewards and uses positive reinforcement to help you achieve your recovery goals.

Other treatment settings include:7

  • Drug detox: This involves medical supervision during the withdrawal period; medications and other medical interventions may be used.
  • Inpatient/residential addiction treatment: Includes intensive and structured care 24 hours a day, 7 days where a person lives during treatment.
  • Outpatient addiction treatment: Includes many treatment programs including individual and group therapy where a person lives at home and visits the facility for treatment.

Many people struggling with addiction have underlying mental health issues and may have other addictions that need to be treated along with bath salt addiction.

At American Addiction Centers (AAC), we recognize the importance of providing comprehensive addiction treatment to help you end your stimulant addiction and live the life you deserve. We offer a range of services and interventions in our licensed treatment facilities across the country. Call to speak to a compassionate admissions navigator. Our admissions navigators are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They can help you start the admissions process and even help check your insurance coverage.