What Are Bath Salts?

Author: Ashley Haynes, MD

“Bath Salts” are the common name for a group of drugs called “synthetic cathinones”.  These drugs are very similar to amphetamines.  Natural cathinone is found in the plant khat, which is not legal to import to the US.

Other common names include Cloud Nine, Ivory Wave, Vanilla Sky, Flakka, but hundreds exist.  They may be sold as “jewelry cleaner” or in packets labeled as “bath salts” in an effort to skirt law enforcement.

Bath salts are usually found as powders or crystals.  Most commonly they are crushed and “snorted”, but can be swallowed as a tablet.  Occasionally they may be produced in a liquid form to be vaporized in e-cigarettes or injected.

These drugs are all stimulants, and act like cocaine or amphetamines to increase adrenaline.  These also increase dopamine and serotonin, which can lead to more hallucinations, paranoia and psychosis than other stimulants.

Typical effects start within 10-20 minutes and may last 2-12 hours.  Reactions include fast heart beats, palpitations, high blood pressure, muscle breakdown or damage, irritability, psychosis and hallucinations.

These drugs do have addiction potential and abruptly stopping after regular use can cause withdrawal symptoms.

Very rarely persons have attempted to use Epsom salts for intoxication purposes, being familiar only with the name “bath salts”.  If large amounts are swallowed it can cause nausea and vomiting or increase salt levels in the body, but will not cause intoxication.