Bath salts

"Bath salts" is the term for a family of drugs. Their short- and long-term effects are similar to those of cocaine, methamphetamine (meth) and ecstasy.

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About "bath salts"

"Bath salts" (also known as bath powder, drone, MCAT, vanilla sky and blue magic) get their name from the powder form. The white or brown powder looks like the salts that people put in bath water (epsom salts). The most common substances contained in "bath salts" are synthetic cathinones.

"Bath salts" are made in illegal laboratories. The crystalline powder is sold in small plastic or foil packages and labelled "not for human consumption." They are also sold as capsules.

In the powder form, "bath salts" can be taken in different ways:

  • sniffed up the nose (snorting)
  • wrapped in cigarette paper and swallowed
  • dissolved in liquid and swallowed
  • dissolved in liquid and injected into veins

"Bath salts" produce stimulant effects. In some cases, they produce hallucinogenic effects on the person using the drug.

Effects are usually felt quickly (within several minutes to an hour). The effects can last for several hours.

Short-term effects of "bath salts"

Using "bath salts" can lead to short-term mental and physical effects.

Mental effects

"Bath salts" affect certain chemicals in the brain, such as dopamine and norepinephrine. For this reason, they can produce mental or psychiatric symptoms like hallucinations and paranoia. Other mental symptoms include:

  • a sense of well-being (euphoria) and excitement
  • anxiety or panic attacks
  • agitation
  • confusion
  • hallucinations

Other symptoms include:

  • openness and being talkative
  • increased physical activity and alertness
  • increased sex drive

Physical effects

Some of these mental effects may seem pleasant. But additional, undesired effects can have harmful impacts on the body.

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

  • cardiac symptoms (racing heart, high blood pressure and chest pains)
  • decreased blood circulation (leading to painful, white or blue fingers and toes)
  • shortness of breath

Individuals may also find that:

  • their muscles shake and twitch
  • they experience convulsions or seizures

"Bath salts" may also cause:

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

Other substances (such as ketamine or cocaine) that are added to "bath salts" can cause negative effects. As with most illegal drugs in powder form, there is no way of knowing what exactly is in the powder. "Bath salts" seized in Canada have been found to contain one or more cathinones, such as:

  • methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV)
  • mephedrone
  • methylone
  • flephedrone
  • ethylcathinone

Long-term effects of "bath salts"

Regular use of "bath salts" over a long time can cause long-term effects. However, some long-term effects can occur after using "bath salts" only once. Also, some effects may persist after a person has stopped using the drug.

Mental effects

The long-term mental effects of using "bath salts" can include:

  • depression
  • frequent changes in mood
  • insomnia
  • psychosis
  • erratic or violent behaviour

In some cases, using "bath salts" can lead to suicide or death. In a few cases, using several synthetic cathinones at the same time has resulted in death.

Physical effects

Physical effects of persistent "bath salts" use may include:

  • kidney damage or failure
  • muscle injury or muscle breakdown
  • skin rashes or serious skin infections

The effects of using "bath salts" during pregnancy are unknown. However, using stimulants like cocaine and meth has been associated with:

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

Newborns are also more likely to:

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

Substance use disorders and withdrawal

It is not known whether "bath salts" are addictive, although early research suggests this is the case. Because they produce many of the same effects as drugs like cocaine, ecstasy and meth, they are likely addictive.

If people use "bath salts" too much, they may become tolerant to the drug's effects. This means they need to take more and more to feel the drug's effects.

If the person suddenly stops using "bath salts," the person will experience withdrawal symptoms..

Other symptoms of withdrawal can include:

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