Dangers of Bath Salts Abuse in Teenagers


bath salts abuse

Bath salts have become extremely popular among teenagers in recent years. Despite its name, this is not the kind of substance that you use for bathing. They have similar effects as that of the other illegal substances, which are covertly sold at parties, concerts and music festivals.

Bath salts are synthetic cathinones that act similarly as a khat plant. They are usually sold as a white or off-white powder, placed in small plastic or foil packages, and labelled as “not for human consumption”. The substance may be injected, snorted, ingested, or mixed with other liquids.

The drug may be referred to by drug dealers as jewelry cleaners, plant food, or phone screen cleaner, and can be bought online or in headshops. They carry different street names to deceive non-users and authorities alike from getting then caught. Some of the common street names of bath salts are:

  • Bloom
  • Blue Silk
  • Cloud Nine
  • Cosmic Blast
  • Flakka
  • Ivory White
  • Lunar Wave
  • Red Dove
  • Purple Wave
  • Scarface
  • Vanilla Sky
  • White Lightning

Using bath salts can produce an extreme euphoric feeling, which may lead to dangerous behaviors.  They act on the brain the same way as other types of drugs like amphetamines and ecstasy. Bath salts are made from a variety of chemicals which include mephedrone, pyrovalerone and methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV). It is said that MDPV is 10 times more potent than cocaine.

There are several variations of bath salts that contain different ingredients. The most commonly found synthetic cathinones in bath salts are:

  • Butylone
  • Ethylone
  • MDPV
  • Mephedrone
  • Methcathinone
  • Methedrone
  • Methylone
  • Naphyrone

These are strong stimulants that may be sought by users who have tried taking methamphetamine and cocaine. It is highly addictive and can trigger an intense craving for the drug.

Why are Bath Salts Abused?

Being a stimulant, it is a drug of choice among people who want to get “high” to clear their thoughts from any pain, disappointment or fear. Some individuals may feel that they could not go on with their lives having to deal with the everyday stress, leading them to turn to drugs with the hope of being relieved from all the negativity.

It is quite common among teens to use bath salts since it can be a more inexpensive option compared to other drugs. Users may find it easier to purchase bath salts since they can only be bought online at $20 per gram, compared to other drugs that are sold as high as $80 per gram.

Facts and Figures on Bath Salts Abuse

It was in 2010 when bath salt addiction became known in the United States. Several reports revealed that there were people having unlikely behavior such as eating other people’s faces and all other erratic behaviors. Prior to this, bath salt addiction was never a public health concern nor any parent’s nightmare.

Here are some facts about bath salts abuse:

  • Over 22,000 ER visits in 2011 were reported by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) due to the use of synthetic cathinones.
  • It significantly dropped to 2,691 in 2012 and 996 in 2013. The decline continues to this date.
  • In 2012, 91 people were arrested and there were 167,000 bags of synthetic cathinone seized from the government operation.
  • There are over 150 new types of cathinones developed in 2012.
  • Bath salts use is common among people in their twenties, although there are also reports that at least 1 percent of high school students are addicted to bath salts.

Dangers of Bath Salts Abuse

Baths salts are addictive and dangerous, and may cause unfavorable signs and symptoms. The short-term effects of bath salts use usually last for 3-4 hours. These are manifested by the following symptoms:

  • agitation and irritability
  • decreased ability to think clearly
  • delusions and hallucinations
  • depression
  • distorted sense of reality
  • dizziness
  • insomnia
  • mood disturbances and psychosis
  • panic attacks
  • paranoia
  • suicidal thoughts

Some of its physical effects are:

  • brain swelling
  • chest pains
  • decreased muscle and body control
  • feeling sick and throwing up
  • heart attack
  • increased blood pressure and body temperature
  • irregular heartbeat
  • nosebleeds
  • seizures
  • stroke

Bath salts users may eventually develop dependence with the said drug. Because of this, they may feel the need to take frequent large amounts of the substance until they attain the kind of euphoric feeling that they want. Long-term effects of bath salts use are:

  • depression and other mental health issues
  • dizziness and blurred vision
  • headaches
  • higher chances of getting sick because of malnutrition
  • insomnia and restlessness
  • physical exhaustion
  • reduced appetite and health problems from not eating properly

A person who uses bath salts may experience intense heat, which would make them almost tear off their clothes to help them cool immediately. Their extreme behavior may lead to aggressive and extremely uncontrollable attacks or cause self-inflicting pain.

It is possible that long-time bath salts users may cause their muscle tissues to break down, which can result in kidney failure or even death.

It can significantly cause damage to the whole well-being of an individual. Because of this, heart problems are also likely to happen with frequent use.

Synthetic cathinones are the known components of bath salts. However, there are other mixtures of chemicals that are now used, which only the drug manufacturers themselves know about. The mixture of these unknown chemicals can be deadly which increases the risk of developing lethal side effects.

Individuals taking other medication along with bath salts use such as sleeping aids, antidepressants, and painkillers.

Mephedrone and MDPV are two chemicals found in bath salts that are classified as Schedule I drugs in der the Controlled Substances Act of the Drug Enforcement Agency. All substances under this classification have a high potential for abuse and have no accepted medical use.

bath salts powder

Incidents of Bath Salts Abuse

In 2012, a homeless man was viciously attacked along MacArthur Causeway in Miami by someone who was reported to be taking bath salts. Reports revealed that the attacker was found eating the face of the homeless man. Despite the man being demanded to stop by police authorities, the man just growled and bared his teeth, almost like a wild animal, which eventually forced authorities to shoot at him. The incident was named as the “Causeway Cannibal” case.

[Authorities for the above case has since ruled out any links to bath salts abuse. The violent outburst of the said user was caused by marijuana. Evidently, the outrage may be brought about by taking large amounts of the drug that lead to paranoia.]

Another incident involved a 35-year old woman from the U.K., wherein she admitted to using bath salts as her means of losing weight. She did shed off some pounds, but it turned her into a paranoid and aggressive insomniac. She later on developed brain damage, which caused her early death.

In Washington state, a couple figured in a high-speed chase. After they crashed, the man shot his wife and then himself. Their child was also found dead in their home, where packets of bath salts were also found by police authorities.

These are all brought about by substance abuse that has caused the lives of innocent people. You can just imagine how people under the influence of bath salts can act like wild beasts, zombies, vampires, and murderers.

How To Deal With A Family Member with Bath Salts Addiction

It is crucial that family members should be aware of the possible signs of drug abuse. Most often, the cause of drug addiction is when users would turn to drugs instead of facing their problems. Parents in particular should always spend time to talk to their children, especially their teens. Adolescent life can be a confusing stage for teens wherein they need more love and support from the family.

Drug addiction is not only a problem of the user but can also affect the lives of the people around him. If you suspect a member of the family to have an unusual behavior, immediately keep an eye on the family member and start an intervention.

Effects of Quitting Bath Salts Use

Turning away from any form abuse or addiction can have a positive impact on any user. Quitting can reduce their risk of developing any mental health problems. Bath salts are mind-altering drugs that may affect the behavior of anyone who uses it. Being a stimulant, one may experience extreme euphoric feelings, which may lead to hallucinations and paranoia.

Not using any kind of drug can significantly increase productivity at work, leading a person to experience better performance.

Taking bath salt may likely to develop an aggressive behavior. Therefore, quitting can result to more harmonious relationships with people around him.

Diagnosis and Testing

Synthetic cathinones can stay in the body for a period of 24-72 hours. Unfortunately, standard urine drug tests may not detect the presence of this drug. Most drug tests cannot detect the various ingredients found in the drug. There are now more drug testing laboratories that offer specialized synthetic cathinone testing.

The factors that influence drug testing are:

  • The amount of drug used
  • User’s metabolism
  • Height and weight

Treatment for Bath Salts Addiction

It is possible that one can quit using bath salts on his own. However, it could be difficult to deal with the cravings most especially without the support of family and friends.

The type of treatment is determined by a specialist based on the severity of the addiction.  There are options available for treatment:

Inpatient treatment

This is a rehabilitation center that needs the user to be admitted for several weeks until he recovers. It is more helpful for patients to be in this kind of environment since the user will be surrounded by therapists, physicians, and nurses who can protect the user from having a relapse.

Outpatient treatment

This kind of treatment involves sessions made once to several times a week. The downside of this option is not having a 24-hour supportive environment.

Final Word

As one of the most vulnerable sectors of society, teenagers need to be in the company of people who are after their welfare. If you have a teenager in the family, all it takes is to build and nurture your relationships with them. Not only will they be more open to talk about their feelings and confusions, but they can also ask some of the toughest questions in life – and this includes drug abuse.

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