Bath Salts Detox Guide: Signs, Withdrawal Symptoms, & Treatment
Bath salts are a type of man-made cathinone, which mimics the effects of the khat plant. People often use bath salts for their psychoactive or mind-altering effects; however, they are unregulated and may be very dangerous.1
What are Bath Salts?
Bath salts are a type of synthetic cathinone, which are drugs that mimic the effects of the khat plant found in southern Arabia and East Africa.1 Bath salt effects are often more intense than those of the khat plan. They are classified as new psychoactive substances (NPS) and have no known medical use. 1
Bath salts are frequently obtained online or in smoke shops and are sold as a brown or white crystal-like powder.1 They are often labeled “not for human consumption” and may 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:1
- White lightning.
- Cloud nine.
Bath salts are often used as a less expensive substitute for stimulants like cocaine and methamphetamine. Synthetic cathinones like bath salts 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
Common desired and potentially adverse effects of bath salts include:1, 2
- Increased desire for sex.
- Panic attacks.
- Agitation and violent behavior.
Are Bath Salts Addictive?
Bath salts can be addictive and in human studies, people have reported feeling intense cravings to use and withdrawal symptoms if they stop using bath salts.1 Repeated, compulsive use can lead to bath salts addiction. Over time, as the brain adapts to the presence of bath salts, a person may become dependent on the drug. If they try to quit, unpleasant withdrawal symptoms may emerge.1 People may continue using bath salts to relieve these symptoms, which can lead to a cycle of problematic and compulsive bath salts misuse known as addiction.
Fortunately, bath salts detoxification services help users overcome these symptoms. Initial bath 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 Misuse
There is no formal diagnosis for bath salts addiction; however, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5) includes mention of cathinones under stimulant use disorders.4 Only a doctor can make a diagnosis of a substance use or stimulant use disorder; however, the following are a few common signs of a stimulant use disorder, which may help you identify bath salts or stimulant misuse:4
- Stimulants are taken in larger amounts or over a longer period than originally intended.
- Craving or strong desire to use the stimulant.
- Recurrent stimulant use that results in failure to fulfill roles at home, work, or school.
- Continued stimulant use despite persistent or recurrent social and/or interpersonal problems that are caused by or intensified by the effects of a stimulant.
Long-Term Effects of Bath Salts
Since bath salts are unregulated and can contain many different additives and chemicals, the long-term consequences of bath salts are not fully known. More research is needed to identify the effects of chronic use.
The most serious effects of bath salts appear to be related to snorting or injecting the drug. Additionally, bath salts toxicity has resulted in death.1, 2
Do I Need to Detox from Bath Salts?
Though people may show signs of misusing bath salts, it’s not always easy to make the decision to get help for drug misuse. If you feel like you’re misusing bath salts or any other substance, talk to your doctor, a trusted person in your life, and/or take the self-assessment below to see if you’re showing signs of misuse.
What Are Bath Salts Withdrawal Symptoms?
If you misuse bath salts routinely and suddenly stop using or drastically reduce use, you will likely experience bath salts withdrawal symptoms. There is no clear timeline for bath salts withdrawal. Symptoms of cathinone or bath salts withdrawal may include:1
- Sleep problems.
Bath salts withdrawal symptoms will vary depending on several factors, such as:
- The frequency of bath salt use.
- The dose of bath salts used.
- The length of addiction or dependence.
- The use of other substances with bath salts (polysubstance use).
- The presence of any comorbid physical or mental conditions.
- A person’s age.
- Individual physiology.
Since bath salts share chemical similarities with other cathinones and stimulants, the progression of bath salts withdrawal symptoms may adhere to a more general stimulant withdrawal timeline, such as outlined by the DSM-5. According to the DSM-5, stimulant withdrawal symptoms can begin within hours to several days of quitting stimulants.4 The average dose being taken over a given period will further determine the length of onset and intensity of stimulant withdrawal symptoms.
What is a Detox Program?
The detox process helps you get medically stabilized and prepare you for further addiction treatment if that’s a part of your plan created with your treatment team.3 Detoxification 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 priority is addressing any urgent medical issues. After medical stabilization, a treatment plan is developed with information about other treatment options and interventions that may help you through the recovery process.
Bath salts detox, or any substance detox, typically involves the following 3 steps:3
- Evaluation: This 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: This 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.
What Are Detox Options for Balt Salt Addiction?
Bath salts detoxification can occur in a variety of settings depending on your specific needs like medical, social, and psychological. While no medications exist specifically for the management of bath salts detox, certain approved drugs may help with treating mental health concerns.1 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 outpatient detox services throughout the day, allowing the person 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 person 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 may be a beneficial detox setting for severe situations, especially if the person 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 an overdose.
Keep in mind that no matter your situation, help is available. 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 addiction treatment facilities across the country, each with its own treatment philosophy, benefits, amenities, and treatment modalities. The right recovery program for you will depend on several factors, such as:
- Insurance coverage.
- Personal preferences.
- The severity of substance misuse.
- Polysubstance use.
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 develop relapse-prevention skills. Some common interventions include:
- Mutual support groups like 12-step programs.
- Behavioral therapy.
- Psychiatric care.
- Case management if needed.
Each treatment program is different, and therefore, it’s important to work closely with your detox treatment team when exploring 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.