Health Effects of Bath Salts Abuse

When bath salts first hit the illicit drug market, researchers weren’t really sure what to think. The drugs were certainly powerful, as people who came into treatment facilities while under the influence were profoundly altered and sometimes impossible to treat, but it wasn’t really clear what the drugs were made of. In the years that have followed, a significant number of studies have been performed on these drugs, and all of this work suggests that bath salts have the ability to do profound damage to the people who take them.

Hijacking Monitoring Systems

Bath salts tinker with dopamine and norepinephrine levels inside the brain. These neurotransmitters are typically produced in low levels, and cleanup cells inside the brain recycle the excess. When the brain has access to bath salts, these processes are disrupted, and the amended brain loses control of very basic functions. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that the disruption bath salts can cause is potentially more dangerous than the disruption attributed to cocaine in rodent models. At high levels of exposure, the drug can cause:

  • A very fast heart rate
  • Dehydration
  • Kidney failure
  • Muscle tissue deterioration

The amended brain is running wild, and the person’s body seems to be breaking down on the inside on a cellular level. People like this can die due to their drug exposure.

The American Association of Poison Control Centers reports that 6,138 calls were placed to poison control centers due to bath salts exposure, and while calling for help is reasonable when someone is facing a life-threatening problem, there are no specific antidotes that have been developed for bath salts. People in the throes of a reaction are slightly difficult to treat as a result.

Boosting Addiction

People who emerge from their bath salt exposure unscathed may not be free from future health problems, as bath salts are known to cause changes within the brain that can lead to compulsive drug use. For example, in a study conducted by the NIDA, researchers found that rats would self-administer the drug at an intake similar to methamphetamine. People who use bath salts also report that they have a deep need to take the drug again, even if they didn’t enjoy the experience the first time. People like this may need to take larger and larger doses of bath salts, as their bodies might grow accustomed to the presence of the drug. Small doses might not be enough to quell a craving, but big doses could raise the risk for a serious medical complication. People with addictions may be walking a tightrope of addiction and complication almost all of the time, and it might be hard to recover without help.

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Risk of Contamination

At this point, researchers have settled on what drugs bath salt packets typically contain, but drug dealers may continue to tinker and experiment, looking for ways to skirt the laws and create a powerful drug that doesn’t contain banned substances. This tinkering could mean exposing drug users to other drugs like cocaine or heroin, or the amendments could allow contaminants like bacteria to enter drug packages. There is no quality control process for these drugs, so it’s impossible for users to keep themselves safe.

If you’re struggling with a bath salts addiction, please call us. Our tailored treatment program at Alta Mira can help you get back on your feet once more.