Bath Salts Detox Guide: Timeline, Symptoms & Effects
Commonly labeled as “bath salts,” the synthetic cathinones are drugs that chemically resemble but often exceed the effects of the active stimulant substance found in the khat plant. Bath salts, or synthetic cathinones, are drugs that mimic and magnify the stimulating effects of the khat plant, found in the southern Arabia and East Africa 1. Bath salts, which are not to be confused with Epsom salts, are frequently obtained in brown or white crystal-like powder form on the internet and in head shops. Often labeled “not for human consumption,” they can be disguised as useful products, such as jewelry cleaner or plant food. Bath salts can be snorted, smoked, swallowed, or dissolved in water and injected. Common street names include flakka, white lightning, bloom, and cloud nine 1.
Bath salts serve as a cheap substitute for stimulants, such as cocaine and methamphetamine. These synthetic cathinones are often present in products that dealers sell as MDMA or molly, which can be dangerous for users who are unaware of what they’re using 1.
Users who attempt to overcome bath salts addiction without assistance are often unsuccessful due to withdrawal symptoms and intense cravings.Bath salts abuse is part of an overall substance abuse crisis confronting the nation. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), synthetic cathinones were involved in nearly 23,000 drug-related emergency room visits in 2011 5. The widespread availability of bath salts, along with the lack of legal regulation, compounds the public health issue that these drugs represent.
Like so many other drugs of abuse, repeated use can lead to bath salts addiction. Over time, the brain adapts to the presence of the drug, leading to dependence which, when established, can give rise to the emergence of unpleasant withdrawal symptoms with the cessation of or reduction in use. Users often take bath salts to relieve these symptoms, which can lead to a cycle of problematic and compulsive bath salts abuse known as addiction. Users who attempt to overcome bath salts addiction without assistance are often unsuccessful due to withdrawal symptoms and intense cravings 1.
Fortunately, bath salts detoxification services help users overcome these symptoms. Initial baths salts detox is a critical first step in finding treatment and establishing a life free of bath salts abuse.
Signs and Symptoms of Bath Salts Abuse
There are several signs and symptoms that can indicate someone is abusing bath salts. Signs of intoxication often mimic those associated with cocaine, amphetamine, or MDMA abuse and may include1,2,3:
- Increased energy and sociability.
- Increased blood pressure.
- Heart palpitations.
- Rapid heart rate.
- Chest pain.
- Teeth grinding.
- Overactive reflexes.
- Dangerously high body temperature.
- Panic attacks.
- Violent behaviors.
- Extreme agitation.
- Excessive sweating.
- Abdominal pain.
- Nose bleeds.
- Intravenous signs, such as track lines, abscesses, and puncture marks.
Abusing bath salts can be fatal, with the worst outcomes resulting from intravenous or intranasal use 2.
Long-term Effects of Bath Salts Use
Because bath salts are unregulated and can contain many different additives and chemicals, the long-term consequences of bath salts use are not clearly defined. More research is needed to identify effects of chronic use. Chronic abuse of bath salts can lead to many troublesome and dangerous effects, such as 2,3:
- Physical dependence, resulting in the emergence of withdrawal symptoms.
- Bath salts addiction, a pattern of compulsive use despite negative consequences.
- Intense cravings for bath salts.
- Increased risk of accidents or violence due to erratic behavior.
- Increased risk of contracting HIV or hepatitis due to injecting bath salts.
- Increased risk of perforation of nasal septum due to snorting bath salts.
The sooner you seek help for bath salts abuse the lower the risk of experiencing any long-lasting complications. Drug detox is an effective first step towards sobriety and a healthier life.
How Do I Know If I Need Detox?
A bath salts addiction is characterized by continued use of the drug, when when doing so is detrimental to your mental or physical health and personal wellbeing. Though the signs may be there, many people struggle to recognize that addiction has taken hold of them. How do you know if you’ve reached a point of compulsive use and would benefit from formal detox services?
According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), you may have an addiction to bath salts if you experience any two of the following symptoms within the past year 6:
- You have a persistent desire to stop using bath salts yet cannot seem to quit on your own.
- You spend too much time seeking or using the drug or recovering from its effects.
- Your bath salts use is affecting your performance at work, school, or in your personal life.
- Your bath salts use interferes with social or recreational activities.
- You continue to use bath salts despite being fully aware of their harmful psychological and physical effects.
- You use bath salts even in hazardous situations, such as while driving.
- You experience strong cravings for bath salts.
- You develop a tolerance to the drug.
- You experience bath salts withdrawal symptoms when you try to quit.
What Are Bath Salts Withdrawal Symptoms?
If you abuse bath salts routinely and suddenly stop using or drastically reduce use, you will likely experience bath salts withdrawal symptoms. There is no definitive information about the timeline for bath salts detox symptoms. However, similar to the manifestation of other drug withdrawal syndromes, bath salts withdrawal symptoms will vary depending on several factors, such as:
- The frequency of bath salts use.
- The amount of bath salts regularly used.
- The length of addiction or dependence.
- The use of other psychoactive substances.
- The presence of any comorbid physical or mental conditions.
- Individual physiology.
Since bath salts share chemical similarities with the stimulant cathinone and other stimulant substances, the progression of bath salts withdrawal symptoms may adhere to a more general stimulant withdrawal timeline, such as outlined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5). According to the APA, stimulant withdrawal symptoms can begin within hours to several days of quitting stimulants 6. The average dose being taken over a given period will further determine the length of onset and intensity of stimulant withdrawal symptoms.
Bath salts detox symptoms include 1:
- Intense cravings.
- Sleep problems.
What Does a Detox Program Entail?
If you have never been through a drug detox program before, rest assured that an experienced treatment team will make sure that you are comfortable throughout the withdrawal process. They realize how distressing the process can be and will provide you with emotional and psychological support for the duration of detox.
The detox process is conducted primarily to help stabilize you and prepare you for follow-up addiction treatment.Bath salts detox is “a set of interventions aimed at managing acute intoxication and withdrawal 3.” It seeks to minimize the immediate harmful effects of the drug and the effects of withdrawal.
When you enter a detox program, the first priority is addressing any urgent medical issues. After medical stabilization, a detox treatment plan is developed. To help you know what to expect, this plan includes information about how bath salts abuse and withdrawal affects you.
Bath salts detox involves the following 3 steps 3:
- Evaluation: The evaluation phase begins with a comprehensive assessment of your social, psychological, and medical situation. Testing for the presence of toxic substances will be done at this point, as will screening for other medical and mental conditions.
- Stabilization: Stabilization is the actual process of managing symptoms through counseling and medications—a process individualized to meet your specific needs.
- Facilitating ongoing treatment: This involves helping you understand that detox is just the first step in the recovery process, and that unless you fully engage in a substance abuse treatment program, your risk of relapse increases.
It’s important to understand that detoxification alone doesn’t rectify the maladaptive thoughts and behaviors contributing to the bath salts abuse problem. The detox process is conducted primarily to help stabilize you and prepare you for follow-up addiction treatment.
What Are My Detox Options for Balt Salt Addiction?
Bath salts detoxification occurs in a variety of settings, depending on your acute medical status and what works best for your situation. While no medications exist specifically for the management of bath salts detox, drugs can help control any agitation and psychotic symptoms that may result from use 4. Some options for going through the detoxification process include:
- Physician’s office: The lowest level of intervention is through a doctor’s office. You will attend scheduled meetings in which your physician monitors your condition and provides you with any medications to ease unpleasant symptoms.
- Outpatient services: Licensed and credentialed staff members provide detox services through the day, allowing the patient to return home at night.
- Inpatient: For those needing 24-hour detox services, one option is admission to a residential detox facility, in which the patient lives at the facility for the duration of detox. Doctors, nurses, and mental health and substance abuse professionals provide you with comprehensive care and support while you withdraw from bath salts.
- Hospital care: Hospitals are often a beneficial detox setting for severe situations, especially if the patient has other medical or psychiatric issues requiring treatment. Additionally, some people go through detox in a hospital setting after being admitted to the emergency room due to acute complications resulting from bath salts use.
Keep in mind that no matter your situation, help is available. There’s no reason to endure bath salts withdrawal alone. Medical and psychiatric professionals can provide you with the necessary support to help you achieve sobriety.
Where Can I Find Addiction Treatment?
There are many different types of substance abuse treatment, each with its own treatment philosophy, benefits, amenities, and treatment modalities. The right recovery program for you will depend on several factors, such as:
- Your price range.
- Your insurance coverage.
- Your support system.
- Your personal preferences.
- The severity of your bath salt addiction.
- Whether you abuse other substances or not.
Post-detox addiction treatment programs exist to accommodate a wide range of needs. They all share the goal of teaching you to cope with your addiction and developing relapse prevention skills. Some options include:
- Inpatient treatment: Inpatient treatment facilities range from medically managed intensive care to therapeutic communities, where peers work together toward a return to socially productive lives. Residents live at the recovery centers for the duration of treatment, which usually ranges from 30 to 90 days, depending on the patient’s needs.
- Outpatient treatment: There are several varieties of outpatient programs that offer you the flexibility to remain home while undergoing treatment. For example, partial hospitalization programs (PHP) involve remaining at a treatment facility during the day, 5-7 days per week, but returning home at night. Intensive outpatient programs (IOP) involves counseling session 3-5 days per week, for several hours each day. Standard outpatient treatment involves therapy session 1-2 days per week for 1-2 hours each visit.
- Luxury: For those with the resources, some programs aim to make the rehab process as comfortable as possible. Evidence-based treatment practices, such as psychotherapy, are combined with upscale amenities, such as gourmet dining, concierge and room service, massage therapy, and spa treatments.
- Executive: These upscale inpatient programs cater to the unique needs of high-powered business executives, providing patients with internet and phone access, as well as private work rooms.
- Population-specific: Other programs serve the specific needs of particular populations, such as men-only, women-only, veterans, LGBT, or teens.
- Holistic programs: Holistic programs aim to heal the mind, body, and spirit with alternative treatments, such as acupuncture, yoga, meditation, nutritional counseling, and creative arts therapy.
- 12-step programs: 12-step programs, such as Narcotics Anonymous (NA) model Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). The approach is peer-based and many people attend these meetings for life, benefitting from the encouragement and support of the other group members.
- Non-12 step programs: There are alternatives to 12-step programs for those who prefer a scientific-based approach to recovery. These support groups rely on empowerment and create individual paths to long-term sobriety.
It’s important to note that each treatment program has its own strengths and weaknesses, and therefore, it’s important to work closely with your detox treatment team when exploring addiction treatment options. What works for one person may not be right for you or your loved one, so be sure to make a list of what you think is most important in a substance abuse treatment program.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2016). Synthetic Cathinones.
- Drug Policy Alliance. (2017). What Are the Effects of Synthetic Cathinones?
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2015). Detoxification and Substance Abuse Treatment: A Treatment Improvement Protocol.
- University Hospitals Department of Psychiatry. (n.d.) Overview and Treatment of Bath Salts Intoxication and Opioid Withdrawal.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2013). The DAWN Report.
- American Psychiatric Association. (2015). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). Washington, D.C.: American Psychiatric Association.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2012). Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide.