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The Dangers of Bath Salts and Designer Drugs

Substance abuse is an epidemic across the United States, with more people turning to dangerous drugs more often. It’s a problem that devastates lives, families and communities. While some drugs are well-known for their potentially fatal effects, others are mistakenly seen as safer. That includes bath salts, a designer drug. But once you understand what it really is, you will understand the threat it poses.

What Really Are Bath Salts?

Between the innocent-sounding name “bath salts” and the idea of a designer drug, these synthetic stimulants are sometimes seen as a softer drug choice than other narcotics. However, this is a very misinformed view. The chemicals in bath salts cause serious health problems and could even kill a user.

What Chemicals Are in Bath Salts?

The bath salts sold by drug dealers across the nation are synthetic cathinones, human-made stimulants that are similar to a naturally occurring substance found in a plant that grows in Asia and Africa. In those regions, native people chew the leaves of the plant and get a mild stimulant effect. The man-made version has an increased response, creating a sense of high.

Unfortunately, the labs that make the synthetic cathinones may also mix other chemicals into the formula for various reasons. They may want to increase yield or change the color of the crystals that are produced in the manufacturing process. Because there is no type of regulation, bath salts could have additional harmful chemicals that could cause other health problems.

Bath salts are a Schedule I drug in the United States. This means they are not legal for sale under any circumstances anywhere in the nation. Even if bath salts are sold in what seems to be a legit establishment, the sale and purchase of the substance are illegal acts.

What Are the Effects of Bath Salts?

The high of bath salts is often compared to methamphetamines or cocaine. They may include:

  • Increased wakefulness or concentration
  • Hallucinations
  • Talkativeness
  • A sense of euphoria or a rush.

However, those effects can be accompanied by serious health changes that put the user at risk. Many of these are very dangerous:

  • Rapid heart rate
  • High blood pressure
  • Muscle spasms or tremors
  • Seizures
  • Severe panic attacks.

More serious effects can also occur, including:

  • Psychosis
  • Agitation
  • Confusion
  • Violent behavior.

The stimulant can also lead to insomnia, which when combined with the heart problems related to the drug can prove fatal in some cases. This makes bath salts a very risky drug that could send the user into a serious medical emergency.

Other Versions of Bath Salts

In attempts to get around laws, many labs that make bath salts have tried to reformulate the drug into substances that are not technically banned yet. One such drug is Flakka, another designer drug that is the same type of stimulant as bath salts. However, Flakka may be even stronger than bath salts in many cases and produce a bigger reaction in the user.

The Drug Enforcement Administration also reports that bath salts and similar drugs are often sold under names such as Blue Silk, Cloud Nine, Drone, Ivory Wave, Lunar Wave, Meph, Ocean Burst, Pure Ivory, Purple Wave, Stardust, Vanilla Sky, White Lightning and more. The constant changes in names and brands can make it tougher for law enforcement to spot the drugs and prevent sales.

The Impact of Bath Salts

Synthetic drugs such as bath salts gained traction around the globe in the 2000s. People found that these manufactured substances offered much of the same effect as other drugs such as methamphetamine but at a lower cost. The ability of the drug makers to skirt the law by changing the formulas often also made distributing the drug easier and more common.

Law enforcement noted a rise in the use of the medicine as they started investigating strange incidents reportedly related to bath salts. Many of the incidents include gruesome and violent attacks. The combination of hallucinations, confusion and violent behavior that bath salts can induce led to scary acts of violence.

In Miami in 2010, ABC News reported that police confronted a man high on the drug who had attacked another man and was eating the victim. The suspect was delusional and could not be reasoned with due to the effects of the drug. Other police reports from around the nation list deadly incidents related to bath salts, including fatal attacks and suicide.

What Drives the Use of Bath Salts?

One of the biggest contributors to the use of bath salts and other synthetic drugs is the mistaken belief that designer drugs aren’t as bad for you. This is far from the truth. Bath salts and other designer drugs can do serious damage to your mind, body and well-being. No matter how they are remade and rebranded, they are still drugs that don’t belong in your system.

Bath salts, Flakka and other similar drugs are also becoming more used in party scenes. They are commonly sold alongside Ecstacy or Molly, drugs containing the dangerous chemical MDMA. Sometimes bath salts and Molly are mixed together. This creates an extreme rush for the user but puts them at even higher risk for cardiac-related emergencies.

Some drug users may also turn to bath salts because the substance is not tested for as commonly as other illicit drugs, making it harder to detect. However, more awareness has made it harder for users to keep their consumption of bath salts a secret.

The cost and availability are also key factors in the rise of bath salts and Flakka as more common drugs. They can be purchased for less money than illegal stimulants such as methamphetamine, making them a substance people who are low on money turn to. The option to sometimes purchase bath salts in places such as gas stations increases the use by creating more opportunities.

Signs of Abuse of Bath Salts

How can you know if a loved one or friend may be using bath salts or Flakka? By taking the time to learn some of the signs, you can help that person get treatment before there is a tragic outcome.

Damaged Nasal Passages

This drug is snorted as a method of ingestion for many users. However, the powder is very damaging to the tissues in the nasal passage. It will leave physical damage that will cause recurring problems for the user.

Issues such as nose bleeds, sinus problems or a perforated nasal septum could be signs of bath salt abuse or hint at other drugs being inhaled.

Unusual and Intense Energy Levels

Because of its nature as a stimulant, the drug gives its users a big surge in energy. People who are taking bath salts may have inconsistent and extreme bursts of energy that they cannot get under control. This is often why Flakka and bath salts are used as party drugs.

These sudden upticks in energy will also be accompanied by a sense of extreme happiness or euphoria. Bath salts disrupt neurotransmitters in the brain, changing the person’s mood in drastic ways. This can also lead to sudden downturns in mood when the effects of a dose of the drug wear off, leading the user to consume more drugs to regain their happy feeling.

Sudden Weight Loss

Drastic and unexplained weight loss is associated with many health issues, including drug abuse. Bath salts and other synthetic stimulants can suppress the appetite while increasing energy, leading to higher rates of calorie burn. Because of this, you may notice a person become thinner due to drug use.

Violent Behavior and Psychosis

The mental effects of bath salts can also become evident quickly when someone is abusing this drug. As was mentioned earlier, violent tendencies are a side effect of bath salts. If you notice that someone is becoming more prone to lash out in a violent manner coupled with other signs of drug use, get help immediately.

Bath salts can also cause people to have delusions and become paranoid. Take note of anyone who seems to be seeing things that aren’t there or have new fears about the people around them. Getting intervention in these cases can be a matter of safety since users of bath salts have been known to commit extreme violence while under the influence.

Physical Evidence of Drugs

If you see any suspicious substances in a person’s home or space, take the time to investigate. Bath salts often are sold as a white or brown crystal substance that looks similar to large granules of salt. When sold in stores, they usually come in little packets and may be labeled as “not for human consumption.” Do not be fooled by this or let the potential user explain away the presence of the substance.

Do your best to carefully collect a sample and take it to authorities to get it tested. This will let you know if the substance is truly bath salts or Flakka, or some other drug or compound. The sooner drug use is detected, the more likely it is to successfully help the user.

Treatment for Bath Salts Abuse

As with all substance abuse disorders, treatment is critical to saving the user’s life and preventing further physical and mental damage. Getting help to get off of bath salts requires a consistent and coordinated approach from the user, their loved ones and all the support staff that is brought together for their care.

Assessing the Severity of the Problem

Any kind of addiction or drug abuse is a serious medical problem. However, people using bath salts need to be assessed to determine the extent of damage the drug has done. A person who is put into treatment after having an episode of psychosis could have a very tough road to recovery.

Bath salts are so powerful that patients have a mental break, and need sedation for days or weeks in some cases. This is the time when the body can begin to fight the effects of the stimulant. However, there is no guarantee that serious mental damage has not occurred by this point. Anti-psychotic drugs may be needed to get a person back to a stable place.

Extreme psychosis events may also be more common in users who have consumed the drug for a longer time period. The body’s tolerance builds up so they take larger doses and eventually overload the signals in the brain. This makes recovery even harder.

Living Through Withdrawal

Bath salts have the potential to become very addictive. They interrupt the proper flow of dopamine and serotonin in the brain and attach to neurotransmitters, creating a dependency. Cutting off this connection can lead to severe symptoms.

Signs of withdrawal from bath salts include tiredness, insomnia and nasal congestion. People who attempt recovery will also have to watch for mental health concerns. Anxiety and depression are common since the user no longer has access to the euphoric feelings that came from the drug. If the person turned to the drug to cope with emotional problems, these may feel intensified.

Cravings are also a very real concern during withdrawal. The body still wants the drug and that urge doesn’t just end because a person has decided to go into recovery. Unlike treatments for opioid addiction, there are no medicines currently approved to help ease someone out of bath salts addiction. This can make the detox and withdrawal period a very hard time to get through.

Addressing the Causes of Drug Abuse

A key aspect of treatment for bath salts abuse will be therapy. This will be the time to address why the user may have turned to bath salts and other illicit drugs in the first place. Trauma is often at the root of many people’s motivation to experiment with drugs. They are looking for an escape from unwanted and unwelcome feelings and drugs offer that.

Dealing with those same unwanted feelings can be a path to letting go of the need to use. However, therapy during recovery has to be handled carefully so as to not trigger a desire to go back to drugs. Careful treatments will help the patient work through their issues at a pace that is sustainable and not overwhelming.

Changing Environments

When dealing with any addiction, it is imperative to keep the person who is recovering away from environments and situations that encourage using. This is why treatment programs are often done away from a person’s home. Being removed from that space takes away both access to drugs and triggers that would lead to drug use.

Changing lifestyles and environments become harder once a person enters the stages of recovery that allow a bit more independence. Once a person returns to their life, they will be tempted by things from their past. Users who abused bath salts at parties or social gatherings will have to learn to avoid these spaces and situations to stay on the right path.

This is also a challenge when a person has to confront the people who they used to do drugs with. Old associates may not be ready to change their lives and may not support the changes the recovering person is making. This leads to peer pressure and even emotional isolation, which can tempt a patient to use again for the sake of fitting in and having companionship.

A Strong Support System

Very few people are able to overcome an addiction to bath salts alone. A network of loved ones and friends who support the improvements a person in recovery is trying to make will play an invaluable role in the success of the treatment. Putting distance between a recovering person and former drug dealers or others who are not invested in the treatment process will also protect the patient.

People separating from a life of drug use need reassurance that they are strong enough to stay on the path of sobriety. They also need to be surrounded by positive people who create safe spaces to recover in, with positive activities and emotional outlets.

For people who don’t have this kind of group of people around them, it may be wise to look into sober living communities. Having a drug-free place to recover will increase the chances of success as a person breaks free from bath salts.

Finding Purpose

Gaining a new sense of self and purpose can also help former drug users maintain their sobriety. Some may find creative endeavors while others will respond better to missions that are service-oriented. In either case, taking the energy that was devoted to maintaining a life of drug use and turning it towards other goals can make it easier to commit to the change you’ve made.

Battling Bath Salts Addiction Can’t Wait

When it comes to bath salts, there is no time to waste if you or someone you love is using this harmful substance. Despite its reputation as a party drug that won’t hurt you, the truth is that bath salts can destroy your body, mind and life. It is an illegal substance for a reason, and every use is a gamble. If you’re ready to make the change, reach out to Clean Recovery Centers for help today.

Sources:

  • https://nida.nih.gov/publications/drugfacts/synthetic-cathinones-bath-salts
  • https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/1486827
  • https://drugpolicy.org/drug-facts/synthetic-cathinones-bath-salts-flakka
  • https://www.drugs.com/illicit/bath-salts.html
  • https://www.dea.gov/drug-information/drug-scheduling
  • https://drugabuse.com/featured/from-bath-salts-to-flakka/
  • https://www.mentalhelp.net/articles/7-ways-you-can-tell-if-someone-is-using-bath-salts/

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