All You Need to Know About Bath Salts
- How Do Bath Salts Affect the Body?
- Can Bath Salts Kill You?
- Can Bath Salts Be Detected in a Drug Test?
- Bath Salts and Psychosis
Bath salts are a type of stimulant drug that’s common in the party scene. Most bath salts look like small white crystals similar to Epsom salts used for bathing, which is where the drug gets its name. Bath salts are also called monkey dust in some areas.
Just like ecstasy and spice, bath salts are a designer drug. These are drugs made in labs and engineered to mimic other substances.
The active ingredients in bath salts are synthetic cathinone. Cathinones mimic the natural chemicals made by the African khat plant, Catha edulis. When smoked, eaten, snorted, or injected, these chemicals cause euphoria, a surge of energy, and other effects.
You might find bath salts for sale in small packets that say “not for human consumption.” The packages are often mislabeled as bath salts, plant food, or other household substances.
Don’t be fooled: Bath salts aren’t a safe alternative to party drugs. They’re a dangerous stimulant drug that can cause an overdose. Some people even die from using bath salts, so the danger can’t be understated.
Here’s what you need to know about bath salts:
How Do Bath Salts Affect the Body?
Bath salts affect the body similarly to amphetamines, cocaine, and other stimulant drugs. The most common effects include:
- Elevated mood
- Increased desire to be social
- High sex drive
Bath salts are often sold as a cheap substitute for “molly” (MDMA or ecstasy) because their social and mood effects are similar. Dealers might add bath salts to tablets sold as molly to increase the potency and reduce the cost. Hence, if you use party drugs, you might ingest bath salts without knowing it.
It’s also common to experience negative side effects from bath salts. They’re usually short-term and leave your system within four to eight hours.
The most common side effects include:
- Decreased appetite
- Panic attacks
These side effects can be unpleasant enough to cause you serious distress. Many people go to the emergency room each year to treat the side effects of bath salts. The mental symptoms can be especially upsetting, such as hallucinations and panic attacks.
Can Bath Salts Kill You?
Yes, you can die from using bath salts. Bath salts can cause a fatal overdose, especially if you mix them with other drugs. They can also cause serious side effects that lead to death.
One of those side effects is serotonin syndrome, a potentially fatal disorder that happens when you mix bath salts with other drugs. Another is excited delirium, a condition that can end in sudden heart failure.
Bath Salts Overdose
You can die from overdosing on bath salts, so it’s extremely important to know what an overdose looks like. Someone who’s overdosing on bath salts might be unresponsive or they might be agitated. They may be flushed and clammy, and they might say or do things that don’t make sense.
The symptoms of bath salts overdose include:
- Fast heart rate
- Heavy sweating
- Heart failure
- High temperature
There’s no medication that reverses a bath salts overdose, so the treatment is supportive. That means your symptoms will be treated until the overdose passes. You might receive drugs such as Ativan to treat seizures and help calm any discomfort you’re having.
Drug overdoses are a medical emergency. If someone you’re with overdoses on bath salts, get medical help right away. It can’t wait!
Serotonin Syndrome from Bath Salts
Bath salts cause the serotonin in your brain to rise. Serotonin is a chemical in your brain that regulates mood, appetite, and sleep. It can also affect thinking, learning, memory, and motivation.
Combining bath salts with other serotonin-raising drugs causes your body’s serotonin system to go into overdrive. When your body has too much serotonin, you can develop a condition called serotonin syndrome. The extra serotonin overstimulates your body, including your nervous system and your digestive system.
Serotonin syndrome is serious and it can even be fatal. It can look like an overdose or withdrawal, or it can have features of both. You might feel very sick, like you have the flu, complete with stomach discomfort and a fever. If you use bath salts very heavily, then the condition is more likely to be severe with seizures and tremors.
The symptoms include:
- Dilated pupils
- Excessive sweating
- Extreme reflexes
- High body temperature
There are dozens of drugs that can cause serotonin syndrome when you mix them with bath salts. They include prescription and illicit drugs, and even some dietary supplements such as St. John’s wort.
Mixing Prescription Pills With Bath Salts
Prescription drugs that can cause serotonin syndrome when mixed with bath salts (or each other) include:
- ADHD medications such as Adderall and Vyvanse
- Antidepressant medications such as Zoloft, Cymbalta, Lexapro, and others
- Anti-nausea medications such as Zofran
- Digestive medications such as Reglan
- Herbal supplements such as St. John’s wort
- Pain medications such as tramadol and Demerol
Mixing illicit drugs with bath salts can cause serotonin syndrome, too. Street drugs that are especially dangerous to mix with bath salts include:
- Amphetamines, including methamphetamine, dextromethamphetamine, and others
- Cocaine, including crack cocaine
- Dextromethorphan, also known as DMT
- Ecstasy, also known as MDMA or molly
This is not a full list of every drug that interacts with bath salts or can cause serotonin syndrome. If you have questions about drug interactions, ask a pharmacist or your doctor.
Excited Delirium from Bath Salts
Excited delirium is a rare and serious side effect of bath salts. It causes death in up to 10% of cases. If you have excited delirium, you may get confused and experience mental and mood changes. You may find yourself sweating too much and feeling agitated or confused.
People who have excited delirium may behave violently or do things that don’t make sense. The most memorable symptom is inappropriate nudity: You might strip off your clothing as your body temperature rises.
The symptoms of excited delirium include:
- The trouble with cognition, attention, and consciousness
- Difficulty speaking in a way that makes sense
- Feeling disconnected from the world
- Increased heart rate
- High body temperature
- Sudden bursts of energy or strength
Because of the mental symptoms, it’s unlikely that you’ll know you’re having a problem if you do have excited delirium. If you have a problem with bath salts, it’s important to never use them alone and make sure your companions know how to recognize excited delirium.
Excited delirium is a medical emergency. It’s important to get help right away if you’re with someone who has excited delirium or other signs of a bath salts overdose.
Can Bath Salts Be Detected in a Drug Test?
Some people use bath salts thinking that the substance won’t be detected in a drug test. This might have been true in the early 2000s, but today, we know enough about bath salts to find it on some drug tests.
Not all drug tests can detect bath salts, and it isn’t part of routine tests for employment. However, special tests are available to check for synthetic cathinone, which is the active ingredient in bath salts. You should assume that bath salts have the potential to show up on a drug test.
Bath Salts and Psychosis
Bath salts increase serotonin in your body. Too much serotonin in the body can cause psychosis, which is a mental disorder that makes you feel disconnected from reality. Using bath salts can increase the odds that you’ll experience psychosis, especially if you’re already prone to it.
The symptoms of psychosis caused by bath salts include:
- Trouble making sense
Psychosis can be seriously disabling while you have it. It can cause you to lose control over your behavior and lose jobs, relationships, and living situations. It’s very important to get medical help right away if you have psychosis, but you probably won’t know that you need help. Most people with psychosis don’t think that they have a problem.
Sometimes stopping bath salts use is enough to stop the psychosis, but you may need to consider antipsychotic treatment. Antipsychotic drugs can ease the symptoms of psychosis but have side effects of their own. Your doctor will talk to you about the benefits and risks of using antipsychotic drugs.
Get Treatment for Substance Abuse
Bath salts can be addictive. The chemicals used to make bath salts are up to 100 times as addictive as methamphetamine. This means that cravings and withdrawal symptoms are very intense. It can be hard to stop using bath salts if you’re addicted to them.
The signs of bath salts addiction include:
- Relationship trouble because of bath salts use
- Strong cravings for bath salts
- Spending too much time looking for or using bath salts
- Trouble stopping your bath salts use
- Using bath salts even though it affects your life and health
If you are addicted to bath salts, it’s important to get treatment now. The treatment gives you access to therapies and medication that can support you through withdrawal and detox.
Call a certified substance abuse treatment center today to learn more about treating your substance abuse disorder. It’s never too late to stop using bath salts and start living in recovery.
Written by Spring Hill Editorial Team
©2023 Spring Hill Recovery Center | All Rights Reserved
This page does not provide medical advice.
- United States Library of Medicine: Excited delirium syndrome defining based on a review of the literature https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21440403
- United States Library of Medicine: Bath salts induced psychosis: a case report https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3615510/
- New York University: Hair sampling shows unintended bath salts use http://www.nyu.edu/about/news-publications/news/2016/february/nyu-research-hair-sampling-shows-unintended-bath-salt-use.html
- Live Science: Bath salt drugs may be more addictive than meth https://www.livescience.com/38157-bath-salts-addictive.html