In the past few years, the United States has seen a dramatic increase in abuse of a substance called synthetic cathinones, colloquially known as “bath salts.” The American Association of Poison Control Centers reported that the number of calls received about abuse of this drug rose from just 300 in 2010 to more than 6,000 in 2011. Part of the reason for this rapid epidemic was the ability to purchase these synthetic drugs, both over-the-counter and online legally. In 2012, however, sales of bath salts was criminalized in the United States. Read on to learn more about the effects of bath salts, the signs of abuse, and what to do if you or a family member have a problem with substance abuse.
What are Synthetic Cathinones or Bath Salts?
So named because they bear a resemblance to the crystals used to add fragrance to a hot bath, this drug is made of an amphetamine-like stimulant. Bath salts are sold as a white or brown powder that is typically contained in a plastic or foil packet. The drug can be ingested orally, snorted, or injected intravenously. Many people who think they are purchasing MDMA or Molly (common club drugs) are ingesting the cheaper synthetic cathinones.
How Do Bath Salts Affect the Brain?
Because a variety of different chemicals can be included in this drug, the effect on the brain is often wildly unpredictable. However, most types of bath salts mimic the effects of amphetamine. This means that they raise the dopamine levels in the brain, causing a feeling of euphoria as well as a compulsion for rapidly increased activity. Some experts estimate that the effects of bath salts are ten times more potent than the consequences of cocaine. Also, bath salts often produce a hallucinatory effect similar to that of PCP (“angel dust“). The unpredictable effects of this drug are one of the things that make it so dangerous.
What are the Physical Effects of Synthetic Cathinones?
Abuse of this drug can cause rapid heart rate, panic attacks, high blood pressure, paranoia, hallucinations, nausea, and tremors, as well as psychosis and violent actions. With continued abuse, users may experience kidney failure, heart attack, dehydration, and even death. In addition to the physical symptoms of abuse, these substances are highly addictive, triggering intense cravings and causing physical and mental withdrawal symptoms when use is interrupted. Suicidal thoughts while using the drug are common, and these often persist in the days and weeks following discontinued use. What’s more, because this is a relatively new drug, the long-term effects of use have not yet been studied.
If a loved one is under the influence of synthetic cathinones, take him or her to the nearest emergency room. If you or a family member are addicted to bath salts or another drug, inpatient treatment is the most effective way to achieve sobriety and to protect your mental and physical health. Talk with your doctor; he or she can recommend a treatment facility and help you with the procedure of researching treatment options.