Bath salts

"Bath salts" is the street name for a family of drugs. The short- and long-term effects of “bath salts” are similar to those of:

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About "bath salts"

"Bath salts" are made in illegal laboratories. The crystalline powder is sold:

  • as capsules or tablets
  • in small plastic or foil packages

They are also known as:

  • drone
  • MCAT
  •  vanilla sky
  • blue magic
  •  bath powder

In an attempt to conceal them, these illegal drug products are usually mislabelled as:

  • bath salts
  • not for human use

“Bath salts” get their name from their powder form. The white or brown powder looks like the salts you put in bath water, such as Epsom salts.

They can be taken in different ways:

  • sniffed into the nose (snorted)
  • dissolved in liquid and swallowed
  • wrapped in cigarette paper and smoked
  • dissolved in liquid and injected into the vein

 “Bath salts” stimulate the central nervous system to:

  •  improve mood and sociability
  • increase alertness and energy

However, using them may lead to severe adverse effects or even death.

The most common substances in “bath salts” are synthetic forms of plant-based cathinones. Almost all synthetic cathinones are controlled under Schedule I of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act

Short-term effects of "bath salts"

You usually feel the effects of “bath salts” quickly, within several minutes to an hour. The effects can last for several hours.

Mental effects

"Bath salts" affect certain chemicals in the brain, such as:

  • dopamine
  • serotonin
  • norepinephrine

For this reason, they can produce effects such as:

  • increased sex drive
  • heightened alertness
  • increased concentration
  • openness and being talkative
  • increased physical activity and alertness
  • a sense of well-being (euphoria) and excitement

At the same time, they produce:

  • confusion
  • suicidality
  • psychosis
  • depression
  • hallucinations
  • self-injurious behaviour
  • anxiety and panic attacks
  • agitation and aggression

Physical effects

"Bath salts" affect the heart and lungs, so you may experience:

  • cardiac symptoms
    • racing heart
    • chest pains
    • heart attack
    • high blood pressure
    • decreased blood circulation
  •  neurological symptoms
    • tremor
    • seizures
    • headache
    • dilated pupils
    • light-headedness

"Bath salts" may also cause:

  • blurred vision
  • high body temperature and fever
  • profuse sweating, with unusual body odour
  • dizziness, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain

Dealers may add other substances such as ketamine or cocaine to "bath salts." These can cause other harmful effects.

As with most illegal drugs in powder form, you have no way of knowing what exactly is in the powder. 

Long-term effects of "bath salts"

Long-term effects can occur after using "bath salts" only once, or regularly over a long time. These effects can include both mental and physical effects.

Mental effects

Long-term mental effects include:

  • anxiety
  • confusion
  • psychosis
  • depression
  • frequent changes in mood

Physical effects

Long-term physical effects include:

  • insomnia
  • injury to your
    • liver
    • heart
  • kidney damage or failure
  • muscle injury or muscle breakdown
  • skin rashes or serious skin infections

Some effects may continue after a person has stopped using the drug.

We do not know what the effects of using "bath salts" during pregnancy are. However, using stimulants like cocaine and meth has been associated with:

  • premature delivery
  • decreased birth weight
  • an increased risk of miscarriage

Newborns are also more likely to:

  • be irritable
  • be malnourished at birth
  • have sleep disturbances

Risks related to “bath salts” use

Using “bath salts” can increase binge-like behaviour. “Bath salts” produce a strong desire for more, to avoid the negative experiences that follow immediately after. Binge use can go on for several days or even weeks.

Using “bath salts” can increase the risk of “bath salt-” induced psychosis. Bizarre behaviour may lead to:

  • violence
  • severe agitation
  • increased risk-taking that can lead to traumatic injuries

Because “bath salts” can increase sexual desire, there is also the potential for spreading HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.

“Bath salts” may create prolonged confusion, and memory and language impairment. This may lead to long-term damage of your brain’s ability to think.

In severe cases, “bath salts” can result in an overdose that brings on multi-system organ failure, resulting in death.

There is also an increased risk of side effects from:

  • the uncertain mix of
    • synthetic cathinones
    • other stimulants and contaminants
  • co-use of “bath salts” with other stimulants, for example cocaine and amphetamines 

Staying at the scene of an overdose is important to help save the life of the person experiencing an overdose. The Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act provides some legal protection for individuals who witness an overdose and call 911 or their local emergency number for help.

Substance use disorders and withdrawal

"Bath salts" can be addictive. If you use them repeatedly, your body may become tolerant. This means you need to take more and more to feel the same effects.

If you stop using "bath salts" abruptly you may experience withdrawal syndrome, including symptoms such as:

  • fatigue
  • anxiety
  • irritability
  • depression
  • inability to concentrate

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