Warning Signs of Bath Salt Addiction

Warning Signs of Bath Salt Addiction

In the late 2000’s, two kinds of drugs arrived on American shores in innocuous, street-legal packaging. By 2011, these drugs had claimed dozens of lives and sent thousands more to emergency rooms all across the country.

These two drugs  known colloquially as “bath salts”and “spice,“ were labeled as “not for human consumption” in order to circumvent federal regulations, yet were marketed by word-of-mouth as “safe”and “clean.” After a few high-profile incidents, they became the target of a hyperbolic news media campaign the likes of which had not been seen since the “crack epidemic” of the 1980’s.[1]

Suddenly, every major news outlet was shrieking about the horrible new drugs that would turn people into “face-eating zombies,” and as a result, people panicked.

There is no question that bath salts and spice are both dangerous and poorly-understood kinds of drugs; but it is how and why they are so dangerous that needs to be clearly understood so that we can best care for those whose lives are affected by them, as well as ensure that they cannot continue to harm people.

Battling a New Type of Drug

It would be difficult to overstate the dangers involved in using bath salts. This designer drug is a central nervous system stimulant that restricts the norepinephrine-dopamine reuptake system, which can lead to serious health effects, including fatal overdoses. Its main ingredient is methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV), and is often mixed with other stimulants; such as mephedrone and pyrovalerone, in addition to cathinone. Bath salts produce a high that is similar to the euphoria gained by using methamphetamine and is most often snorted; though it can be injected, smoked or taken orally.[2]

Before being classified as Schedule I drug in 2012, the drug could be bought in head shops, gas stations and convenience stores. Common names included ivory wave, flakka, vanilla sky and cloud nine; it was often marketed as jewelry cleaner, plant food or phone screen cleaner. There was a great risk of overdose when purchased through retail stores, because packages contained up to 500 milligrams, and the average dose is anywhere from five to 20 milligrams.1

Usage of bath salts may lead to several negative effects, including:

  • Tachycardia
  • Hypertension
  • Hyperthermia
  • Delusions/hallucinations
  • Seizures
  • Paranoia
  • Agitation
  • Violent and aggressive behavior
  • Suicidal ideations
  • Anxiety
  • Compulsive need to continue drug use
  • Loss of motor control
  • Slurred speech
  • Drowsiness
  • Psychotic episodes

The Scope and Threat of Addiction

The relative newness of the bath salts has not allowed for much authoritative research into the addictiveness of the drug. While there have been thousands of emergency room visits related to bath salt abuse, there are no current figures relating to the scope. There is no question that bath salts and spice are both dangerous and poorly-understood kinds of drugs; but it is how and why they are so dangerous that needs to be clearly understood so that we can best care for those whose lives are affected by them, as well as ensure that they cannot continue to harm people.  addiction in America, though it has been a problem in Europe and Asia since the early 2000’s. However, a recent study conducted on rats show that there may be a strong addiction threat.[3]

The study was led by Scripps Research Institute, where rats were taught to get addicted to MDPV or meth by allowing them to self-administer the drugs by pressing a lever, causing an intravenous delivery. The study showed that the rats worked much harder to get MDPV than they did to get meth. Being that both rats and humans are easily addicted, the researchers felt rats would make a good model system to determine the behavioral and neurological effects of the drug. The results showed that MDPV was far more addictive than meth.[4]

“When we increased how many lever presses a rat would have to emit to get an additional infusion of drug, we observed that rats emitted about 60 presses on average for a dose of METH but up to about 600 for MDPV; some rats would even emit 3,000 lever presses for a single hit of MDPV,” said study author Shawn M. Aarde. “If you consider these lever presses a measure of how much a rat will work to get a drug infusion, then these rats worked more than 10 times harder to get MDPV.”

The Difficulty in Policing Synthetic Drugs

Unlike outlawing a non-synthetic drug like heroin, cocaine or marijuana, synthetic drugs can just be made with new chemicals which are not illegal. Bath salts do not refer to a single drug, but a group of several chemicals creating one drug. So when chemicals in Spice or bath salts are classified as Schedule I drugs, unscrupulous chemists go back into their labs and create a new version using legal chemicals.

The difficulty in combatting this is that law enforcement officials must stay ahead of the drug makers – which is highly difficult, if not impossible. There will always be underground labs and chemists trying to find loopholes in new legislation, which makes policing the manufacturing, distribution and usage of synthetic drugs a constant battle.

Get Help With Bath Salt Abuse and Addiction

As with all addictions, treating a bath salt dependency requires a comprehensive approach that addresses both the physiological and psychological aspects of addiction and abuse. But unlike many other drugs, the exact effects of bath salts are highly unpredictable. This is due to the dozens of different strands of the drug created to try and circumvent U.S. drug laws. Every time a person gets high on bath salts, there’s no way of knowing what exactly they’ve put into their body.

If you or someone you know has been experimenting with the drug, or experiencing any of the symptoms of abuse or addiction, the time to seek help is now. Use of this drug has led to several suicides, crazy hallucinations and a rash of strange and inexplicable behaviors.[5] You may not have a second chance to get the help you need.

Please download Behavioral Health of the Palm Beaches’ free informational eBook, Understanding Addiction to Bath Salts. In it you will find information on the physiological and mental effects of bath salt addiction, as well as recommendations for selecting a detox and recovery program for yourself or for someone close to you who is struggling with addiction.