You may have heard of the new drug “bath salts” due to the high profile and horrific stories covered by the media recently. It’s obvious bath salts aren’t what we put in our baths, so what are they?
Bath salts are a group of synthetic drugs primarily composed of the chemicals mephedrone, MDPV and methylone. Calling them bath salts is a way for the makers to get around food and drug laws, as they label them “not for human consumption”. For a time, they were completely legal, making it easy for them to get into the hands of teenagers.
In fact, they can still be found online and even at mini marts. They’re marketed not just as “bath salts,” but also as “air freshener” and “plant food” and are typically packaged in colorful bags.
Bath salts can be snorted, smoked, injected or taken orally. Many users mix the bath salts with drinks and food. After ingestion, bath salts mirror the effects of methamphetamines, PCP and LSD … all at once.
Users experience a sense of euphoria that may last three or four hours. But the aftereffects can last 12 to 48 hours, or even several days, and include disorientation, anxiety, vivid hallucinations, and acute, long-lasting paranoid psychosis, which can even become permanent.
This psychosis may be characterized by severe aggression, and since bath salts often cause users to feel no pain, it can take six or more full-grown men to restrain someone in the midst of it. During this psychosis, the user may also become suicidal. This suicidality can be ongoing, even after the initial effects of the drug have worn off.
Users may also have dangerously elevated heart rate, blood pressure and body temperature. This may lead to kidney failure, seizures, muscle damage and death.
While it is too early to tell what level of addiction these drugs can cause, we do know many stimulants cause cravings. We also know acute toxicity is a problem with these drugs as they build up quickly in the system. Overdoses can occur on one’s first experience with the drug. In fact, it can kill on the first use.
Bath salts users experience withdrawal symptoms if they quit the drug, but also compulsively re-dose as they come down from its initial high, thus elevating the potential for overdose.
And up until recently, there was no way to detect bath salts accurately in drug tests due to changes in composition. Now, labs are starting to offer testing to trace bath salt use.
The fact bath salts were legal in the first place means they may have been introduced to people who might otherwise not have tried them, or tried drugs at all.
Some victims of the drug have been told it could be used for weight loss, a motivation that may well be shared by many adolescent girls. Others have sought it out for its stimulating effects, as a more potent alternative to caffeine.
By some, bath salts are considered a designer drug and carry exciting names like “Vanilla Sky”, “Bliss or “Ivory Wave.”
The new found illegality of bath salts has reduced the number of calls to poison control centers regarding them in the past year. But the greater weapon against them is not the law but public awareness.
Parents in particular must be diligent in recognizing the potential danger of any new chemical substance that enters the market. Aside from open lines of communication regarding expectations of behaviors and dangers of use, parents should take note of any behavior changes in their child seriously. Changes in behavior may not just be the result of a moody teenager.
Dr. Rob Matylewicz, ABAM certified Medical Director at Clarity Way comments, “This is one of the most dangerous new trends. The availability, relatively low-cost, semi-legal status and potentially devastating effects mean that everyone needs to be educated and informed about this and parents need to be diligent around their adolescent children. With this type of designer drug the user may not get a second chance.”
“Bath salts” doesn’t refer to one drug, but a wide variety of chemical formulations. The people who first created it are capable of creating other substances that are equally damaging. And the law may be equally slow to recognize and ban these dangerous drugs.
Posted on June 19th, 2012 in Help Blog