Bath salts are usually a mixture of several substances including baking soda, alcohol, and a variety of herbs. The name derives from historical cases in which the ingredients were disguised as bath salts. Today the bath salts are available as products for making bath salts and are marketed under various names such as bathtub salt, bathtub rock salt, bath salt concentrate, and bath salt alternative. These products can also be purchased in powder form in different varieties.
There have been reports that bath salts are used as a form of self-administered “medicine”. Such reports suggest that bath salts can be used to treat a variety of conditions such as nervous exhaustion, depression, and high blood pressure. In some cases, bath salts have been used to induce states of diaphragmatic calmness (also known as “mood swinging”) in individuals with sleep disorders such as narcolepsy and insomnia. There have also been cases reported in which bath salts are used by children as a means of numbing their mouth and stomach during a food allergy outbreak. In these cases, the reported reaction is not an allergic reaction but a toxic reaction due to the chemical composition of the bath salts.
Some bath salts contain relatively high concentrations of minerals and even toxic substances. Unfortunately bath salts addiction can develop very quickly. A relatively small amount of bath salt will cause a bath salts addiction; more significant amounts will cause psychosis, hallucinations, and panic attacks. A bath salts addiction can affect people of all ages, from children to adults. Some bath salts, such as calcium thioglycolate, can cause serious dental problems. In these cases, the patients must consult with poison control centers or emergency medical personnel to receive treatment.
Psychotic episodes often accompany bath salts addiction. The most common sign of a bath salts addiction is the reported onset of psychotic symptoms such as hallucinations, delusions, and paranoid ideas. Because bath salts addiction can occur only over a period of time, it is very difficult to determine in advance if the symptoms are real or caused by drug withdrawal. When a suspected bath salts addict goes to a doctor for help, he or she will undergo urine testing, blood tests, and physical examinations. Sometimes doctors will administer drug testing using an established screening test for narcotics. Treatment centers will attempt to find the underlying chemical abnormality behind the reported manic and psychotic symptoms, then attempt to help the patient to rid himself or herself of the bath salts.
Most synthetic cathinones, including cocoa, ice, and white powders, contain two major ingredients: caffeine and naphthalene. Caffeine acts as a mild stimulant, increasing alertness and increasing energy levels. It also produces the feeling of being “high,” although most users do not realize that it has any of the side effects of cocaine, which include dehydration, cramps, loss of consciousness, seizures, and breathing problems. Naphthalene can act as a decorative, removing built up natural body chemicals, including epinephrine (adrenalin), which causes the sensation of being “warm,” “tense,” and “humorous.”
Cocaine abuse, whether the drug is used in isolation or in conjunction with bath salts, is thought to produce a high tolerance to the main chemical compounds, which increases the risk of abuse. Cocaine, like bath salts in general, also creates a euphoric “rush” similar to those of other stimulants like amphetamines and ecstasy. In the early stages of use, the user may feel a moderate to strong sense of euphoria. After repeated use, the user’s experience of euphoria tends to decrease and become more consistent, less pleasurable, and less powerful than before. Over time, the user’s use of cocaine may become more entrenched and serious, resulting in a full-blown state of euphoria characterized by restlessness, insomnia, nervousness, and depression.
Another effect of bath salts is addiction. According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, over two million people in the United States alone are addicted to bath salts today. The combination of a substance that produces a temporary “high” and the associated feelings of euphoria for a short period of time makes addiction more likely and even more tempting. Unfortunately, the long-term side effects of cocaine addiction, including insomnia, dizziness, lack of concentration, depression, anxiety, tremors, memory loss, and other mood disorders are well-known.
Some of the possible long-term side effects of bath salts include heart attacks, stroke, hypertension, constipation, and kidney failure. Also, cocaine use has been linked to conditions like auditory hallucinations and schizophrenia. These substances also affect the functioning of the eye, the central nervous system, the immune system, the circulatory system, and the liver. The chronic use of these substances can lead to withdrawal symptoms that mimic those of opiate withdrawal, such as severe cramps and diarrhea, and nausea, vomiting, anxiety, and sweating. In extreme cases, these substances can actually cause a complete blackout of the mind, as well as physical dependence upon them. While there is no definitive evidence of the direct link between bath salts and mental disorders, the long-term effect of constant use may indeed lead to health problems.