Bath Salts Abuse and Addiction

  • Medical Author:
    Roxanne Dryden-Edwards, MD

    Dr. Roxanne Dryden-Edwards is an adult, child, and adolescent psychiatrist. She is a former Chair of the Committee on Developmental Disabilities for the American Psychiatric Association, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, and Medical Director of the National Center for Children and Families in Bethesda, Maryland.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

What is the history of bath salts?

Substances that cause the "high" (intoxication) often referred to as "bath salts" include methylone, mephedrone, and methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV or MDPK). These active ingredients are derived from drugs called cathinones, which come from the East African plant called the Catha edulis. Bath salts are thought to be made in China, in tablet or powder form. These substances are often sold over the Internet, as well as in convenience and tobacco stores, gas stations, truck stops, pawn shops, in tattoo parlors, and on the street. In an attempt to avoid the legal consequences of the banned substances found in bath salts, drug dealers have apparently developed bath salts with other active ingredients. One of those is referred to as Cosmic Blast. Bath salts are sometimes referred to as "zombie" or "cannibal" because it was speculated that a person who engaged in cannibalism as part of an assault may have been intoxicated on the substance.

Are bath salts addictive?

Given the similarities in effects that these drugs have to cocaine, methamphetamines, and other stimulant drugs of abuse, bath salts should be considered to be quite addictive. Also, despite the newness of these drugs and resulting lack of sufficient research on bath salt-specific addiction in humans, animal research has already shown that these substances can be quite addicting. Therefore, health-care professionals consider bath salts to be quite capable of wreaking the same addictive havoc on the lives of users as other stimulant drugs.

Are bath salts legal?

A majority of states have made a number of the active ingredients in bath salts illegal on the state level, and the United States federal government has made MDPV (an active ingredient in many bath salts) illegal due to the drug's tendency to cause symptoms of psychosis, like hallucinations, paranoia, as well as violence, in those who take it. The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) now lists a number of the active ingredients found in bath salts as schedule I drugs, meaning they are illegal because they are understood to have a high potential for abuse, no currently accepted medical use in the United States, and no accepted safe use.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/16/2016

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