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What are Bath Salts?

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Updated October 31, 2012

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Definition:

Bath salts is a name used for a group of designer drugs which have been used as stimulants. There are several different formulations, but most contain synthetic drugs similar to amphetamines or "speed" that look like salts, such as 3,4-methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV), methylone, pyrovalerone, or 4-methylmethcathinone, also known as mephedrone. As is typical of designer drugs, bath salts were originally identified as a legal version of illegal drugs, and have been promoted as "legal highs" and "not illegal." They are generally made in illicit labs. In countries where they have been uncontrolled, they have been sold in head shops and over the internet. Some types have been developed as pesticides, and have been sold as a plant food.

Again, typically for designer drugs, media exposure of the risks of the drug have lead to immediate steps being taken to control the psychoactive ingredients of bath salts in the US, Canada, and the UK. Therefore, it may not be the "legal high" it is sometimes sold as, and in any event, consuming the substances contained in bath salts is risky at best.

Effects of Bath Salts

Bath salts are usually taken using the same routes of administration as amphetamines -- most commonly they are snorted, but they can also be smoked, swallowed or injected.

The psychoactive effects of bath salts are not well understood, as they are relatively new to the drug scene, appearing over the first decade of the 21st century in the USA, Canada, the UK and Europe, with sensationalized media reports appearing in 2011 and 2012. Understanding the effects of bath salts is also complicated by the fact that it is a collection of substances, rather than a single substance.

However, bath salts are known to typically cause alertness, stimulation and euphoria, lasting about three hours. Side effects are also similar to amphetamines. They can cause tachycardia -- irregular heart beat, hypertension -- high blood pressure, and raised body temperature. In rare cases, they have also been associated with hallucinations, paranoia, seizures, blurred vision, and violent behavior.

Risks of Using Bath Salts

The most serious risks associated with use of bath salts are mephadrone overdose, acute symptoms of psychosis, and violent behavior, although more research is needed to verify the extent of these risks. Bath salts also seems to increase sex drive more than some other drugs, such as ecstasy, and there is some evidence that its use is associated with risky sexual behaviors.

Although it is too early to say what the risk of addiction to bath salts might be, up to 85% of mephadrone users report experiencing cravings to use the drug again, especially when it is snorted.

The long term effects of bath salts are not known, although research into its effects are being researched around the world.

Sources

Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse and Canadian Community Epidemiology Network on Drug Use CCENDU Drug Alert "Bath Salts". Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse. 2012.

Nutt, D. Drugs Without the Hot Air: Minimising the Harms of Legal and Illegal Drugs Cambridge: UIT. 2012.

Volkow, N. "Bath Salts" -- Emerging and Dangerous Products. National Institute on Drug Abuse. 2011.

Winder, G. and Nathan Hosanagar, A. "Are "Bath Salts" the Next Generation of Stimulant Abuse?" Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment. 2012.

Pronunciation: bath soltz
Also Known As: Bolivian Bath, Bloom, Blue Silk, Bubbles, Charge+, Cloud Nine, Crash, Drone, Ecstasy, Explosion, Fly, Gloom, Hurricane Charley, Ivory Wave, Lunar Wave, M-cat, Meow Meow, Monkey Dust, Monkey Mash, Monkey Mess, Ocean Burst, Ocean Snow, Pixie Dust, Plant Food, Pure Ivory, Purple Wave, Purple Rain, Rave on, Red Dove, Rush, Salt, Scarface, Vanilla Sky, Whack, White, White Lightening, Zoom.
Examples:
Eric experienced chest pains and was admitted to hospital after taking a large dose of bath salts.
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