What Are Bath Salts and Why Are They So Dangerous

What Are Bath Salts and Why Are They So Dangerous

No, we’re not talking about actual bath salts. That would be unfortunate and rather painful. If you’ve ever accidentally got a fizzy drink up your nose (we would mention one of the leading brands of cola products, but that could be confusing), you’ll know how painful it is.

Instead, we’re talking about a relatively new sort of drug that’s been taking the market by storm. Bath salts are the street name for these drugs, and they’re named bath salts as the crystals resemble Epsom salts. Brand names include Ivory Wave, Vanilla Sky, and Doves Red.

The drug itself is a stimulant. It increases reaction times and decreases tiredness. It also induces feelings of euphoria. In other words, it is quite similar to amphetamine in terms of elation and stimulation. It gained popularity because it was legal to purchase for about 18 months after it was first released.

Drug Ban on Bath Salts

To ban a drug, the government has to know about it. You cannot simply enact legislation to ban everything that gets people high. It took the DEA around 18 months to ban the compound, and until then, it was sold throughout the US in garages and other places. This meant that a lot of people could get their hands on it, including those who were underage for alcohol and tobacco.

The active ingredient in bath salts is invariably a cathinone, which are relatively simple to make (chemically speaking, anyway). Structurally, it’s similar to amphetamine. However, it remained relatively unknown until the beginning of this century. Chemists had discovered this class of compounds in 1910, and given the habits of chemists at the time, they probably consumed a little of it. It remained relatively ignored for nearly a century.

You see, the basic compound isn’t actually that stimulating compared to amphetamine. It’s closer to very strong coffee. It’s found naturally in khat, a plant that’s often grown in the Arabian Peninsula and the Horn of Africa (Somalia and Kenya), and its use predates coffee.

While the DEA banned khat in 1993 by banning cathinone, it didn’t ban all chemicals based on this drug. Chemists started experimenting to see what they could do with the base compound, bolting on different atoms and groups. Eventually, they came up with MDPV, which is basically cathinone with three extra bits bolted on. There are a number of other variants that produce similar effects.

The trouble is, the extra bits make the chemical more potent. They shove electrons into the center of the molecule so that it binds more strongly in the brain. This also means you get some nasty side effects, particularly as the drug breaks down.

The first danger of bath salts involve the chemicals that are used to create the end product. Professional lab-produced drugs are safer because there are stringent safety procedures to eliminate all harmful byproducts. Black market laboratories typically don’t take as much care, so impurities like pyrrolidine or various bromine compounds might remain.

These compounds smell bad and have the potential to cause serious burns. Amines are not the nicest of substances (that’s why we are generally repulsed by the smell of amines-they have a strong fishy odor), and these impurities can even induce severe allergic reactions.

Health Risks, Effects of Bath Salts

Ignoring the general health risk, though, there are much worse issues with the drug. It induces strong cravings for the drug, and it has the usual side effects associated with strong stimulants: hypertension, tachycardia, and mild stimulation.

It also is associated with cannibalism.

It can induce severe psychosis, mainly due to severe sleep deprivation. This can result in the user committing horrific acts. In one case in Miami, which was widely reported, a man ended up eating the face off a homeless man, and this attack was blamed on bath salts.

Another man reportedly attempted to bite two cops who approached him-again, this happened in Miami. He apparently intended to eat the officers Hannibal Lecter-style, but he was quickly subdued. Yet another man bit a chunk off a man’s face before being repulsed with wasp killer.

All of these have been widely reported thanks to the cannibalistic theme, and other cases have occurred as well.

In short, bath salts can be fatal thanks to the fact they cause serious sleep withdrawal. This leads to hallucinations and irrational behavior, so much so that those taking such drugs can end up in serious trouble. In many ways, it’s similar to the PCP epidemic of the early ’80s, and the overall effects are quite similar.

It’s not a drug anyone wants to mess with, and its drug abuse effects are poorly understood. This creates a dangerous combination that could lead to fatal results. Because of this, it’s imperative that you get treatment for yourself or whoever you care about that might be taking bath salts. You can call our toll-free addiction treatment helpline to speak to a trained advisor who can help you find assistance in your area: 1-888-744-0069Who Answers?.


Talk with an Addiction Rehab Advisor.

1-888-744-0069 Who Answers?