Health Effects of Bath Salts Abuse
Bath salts is a term that refers to a group of synthetic substances made to mimic the natural stimulant cathinone. The products included in this group are abused to get a stimulant effect, but at great risk to health. Immediately, bath salts cause a spike in heart rate, body pressure and blood pressure, hallucinations, paranoia, agitation, and sometimes violence and aggression. With repeated use it causes muscle and organ damage, addiction, violent behaviors, aggression and outbursts, and can even be fatal, causing death by violence, health complications, accidents, or suicide.
The drug known as bath salts has an innocent-sounding name, but it is very dangerous. The health effects of using this synthetic drug can range from psychosis to addiction to organ damage and even death. While lawmakers have tried to outlaw bath salts, the manufacturers of these products keep changing up the chemical formula and packaging to get around restrictions.
Users are often drawn to bath salts because they are inexpensive and produce a stimulant high. Many people who turn to these drugs are unaware of just how dangerous they are and fall victim to the marketing schemes that make them seem harmless or safer than alternatives like meth or cocaine. Bath salts are never safe and can cause hallucinations, high blood pressure and body temperature, delusions, paranoia, violent aggression, and many other very serious health issues.
What Are Bath Salts?
Bath salts are a type of synthetic drug, which should not be confused with the bathing products used for soaking, such as Epsom salts. The term bath salts is used to describe a group of synthetic compounds called cathinones. Cathinone is a natural chemical found in a plant native to Africa and the Arabian Peninsula called khat. Some people chew the leaves of the plant, because cathinone has a stimulant effect.
Natural khat leaves are much less potent than synthetic cathinone products, including bath salts. Bath salts are potent, concentrated stimulant drugs. They are usually sold in small packets of crystalline powders and are labeled with something that sounds harmless, like bath salts, which is where the commonly used name for this drug comes from. Other names the product goes by include plant food, electronic cleaner, or jewelry cleaner. The packets are often labeled with the words “not for human consumption” to make them seem less harmful. Some of the brand names are Bliss, Cloud Nine, Bloom, Scarface, Blue Silk, Vanilla Sky, White Lightning, and Lunar Wave.
Bath salts and synthetic cathinones belong to a group of man-made drugs that officials and law enforcement refer to as new psychoactive substances, or NPSs. These are laboratory-made drugs that are unregulated, which means it is not possible for a consumer to know exactly what is in an NPS product, how concentrated it is, or whether or not there are contaminants.
Why People Use Bath Salts
Manufacturers of bath salts market them as safer or at least cheaper stimulants, as compared to methamphetamine, MDMA, or cocaine. Many people use them for this reason, thinking they are getting a similar high at a cheaper price, and are not always aware of the risks. Stimulants produce wakefulness, alertness, and a sense of energy and euphoria, the high that people seek when they use these kinds of drugs.
Immediate Effects of Bath Salts
Studies into how synthetic cathinones affect the brain and body have found that they act in the brain in a similar way to cocaine. One study found that MDPV, a common synthetic cathinone, is 10 times more potent than cocaine. The immediate effects of the drug may vary depending on its potency, which compounds are in it, and the person using it. But in general, bath salts can cause some very dangerous psychotic symptoms that can lead a person to be injured in an accident, to become violent, or to get hurt because of poor judgement. Some of the effects include:
- Paranoia and delusional thinking
- Extreme agitation
- Violent behavior
Bath salts can also increase sex drive and lower inhibitions, which puts a user at risk for making bad decisions and engaging in risky sexual behaviors that could lead to unwanted pregnancies or sexually transmitted diseases.
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Health Effects of Bath Salts
As a drug that causes psychotic symptoms, bath salts poses immediate risks to a user’s health. There are other dangers too, including the way in which the drug affects the body and potential side effects. As a stimulant, bath salts cause increases in heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature. They also can cause anxiety, nosebleeds, insomnia, chest pains, and loss of appetite.
All of these can cause health problems, but there are also more serious side effects a person may experience using bath salts:
- Muscle spasms and muscle damage
- Loss of control of bowels
- Panic attacks
- Hyperthermia, a dangerous increase in body temperature
- Kidney failure
The health risks of using bath salts are more likely to occur and to be severe in users who snort the drug or inject it with a needle. This is as compared to users who ingest or smoke bath salts, although there is no safe use of the drug.
Long-Term Health Risks
Addiction is a real risk for anyone who uses bath salts. The risk increases with frequency and duration of use. There have been reports of individuals experiencing cravings for synthetic cathinones as well as withdrawal after periods of heavy or prolonged use. Withdrawal causes depression and anxiety, paranoia, insomnia, and tremors.
Another important long-term risk of using bath salts is dying from an overdose, or from complications and health problems caused by prolonged use. Some people have died from cathinones because of violent encounters and physical injuries from accidents caused while high on the drugs. There have also been reports of suicides following use of bath salts.
In addition to the risks of addiction and death from bath salts, repeated use of the drug can cause serious health complications. Muscle damage, including the breakdown of muscle tissue around bones, can cause lasting harm, as can kidney damage.
Violence and Bath Salts
A rare but very dangerous potential effect of using bath salts is a state called excited delirium. It is not that common, but because of the bizarre behaviors it triggers, excited delirium is often captured in news stories about individuals using bath salts. Perhaps the most famous was the case of a man who was caught on tape attacking another person, biting the homeless man’s face. It was later found that the perpetrator had been using bath salts, and this incident became an important warning for just how the drug can affect a person.
That incident occurred in 2012, and since then there have been many more reports of people becoming violent and committing atrocious acts while high on bath salts. These include a woman who was recently found guilty of murdering her three-year-old daughter after using the drug. These stories are horrifying, and they show the worst effects of these drugs, but it is important to understand that the violent state of excited delirium is a rare reaction.
Unknown Contents Increase Safety Risks
One of the biggest risks of using bath salts is that it is impossible for the average consumer to know what is in any one product. These are unregulated substances, and they may be more concentrated or potent than a user expects. They may have other substances missed into them, or they may be contaminated with even more harmful substances.
MDMA, also known as Molly, is a popular club drug and stimulant. When pure it carries its own risks, but one of the biggest dangers is the fact that drugs sold as Molly are often MDMA mixed with synthetic cathinones or are have no MDMA at all and contain only cathinones. This unpredictability makes using bath salts, or any drug, highly risky. Anyone using these products have no way of knowing how it will affect them, or if it will cause a severe or life-threatening reaction.
Synthetic drugs like bath salts can be deceptively dangerous. They are often produced, sold, and marketed to people to make them believe they are safer alternatives to more conventional drugs like cocaine, heroin, or meth. The truth is that bath salts and other synthetic drugs can be just as risky or even more so. No drug of abuse is ever safe, and with bath salts the health effects can range from immediate injuries and violence to long-term organ damage and even death. Addiction is possible, too, and anyone who is struggling to stop using this drug should get professional support.