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Bath Salts

What Are Bath Salts (Synthetic Cathinones)?

“Bath salts” is the unofficial “street name” for a group of designer drugs that typically contain synthetic cathinones, that cause stimulating effects comparable to cocaine and amphetamine. The white crystals often resemble Epsom salts or other legal bathing products. The drugs, nick-named bath salts, are chemically nothing like actual bath products. We will discuss bath salts ADDICTION, WITHDRAWAL, and TREATMENT in the article below.

The packaging of synthetic cathinones often states “not for human consumption,” “jewelry cleaner” or similar markings, in an effort to prevent the prohibition of the drugs. Street names for this drug include Bliss, Ivory, Wave, and Vanilla Sky. Cathinones have psychostimulant properties and are sourced from the “khat” plant, that grows in East Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. The leaves are generally chewed, or used in “tea.” Khat consumption in raw form is legal in these locations, where the drug is sold and consumed openly, but khat has been banned elsewhere in the world.6  The cathinones from the leaves are synthesized in the lab to make them into much more powerful stimulants, and it is these synthetic products that are referred to as “bath salts.”

Bath salts are typically ingested by snorting/sniffing. Bath salts can be smoked, consumed orally, or conjured into a solution that is injected into the veins. These compounds are highly addictive. 

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Bath Salts Side Effects

psychosisEffects that have been reported to Poison Control include agitation, suicidal thoughts, confusion, combative/violent behavior, increased heart rate, hallucinations/psychosis, chest pain, hypertension, serious injury, or death. The onset of the drug is around 15 minutes, and the high can last for 4-6 hours.

On October 21, 2011, the DEA exercised its emergency scheduling authority in order to control three of the known stimulants used in making these illegal drugs. Because of this order, bath salts are designated as a Schedule 1 Controlled Substance. 

Physical Side Effects of Synthetic Cathinones

  • Increased energy
  • Reduced appetite
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Seizures
  • Increased heart rates, chest pains, heart problems
  • Blurred Vision
  • Drowsiness, loss of consciousness
  • Tingling in the extremities
  • High blood pressure
  • Ulcers
  • Loss of coordination
  • Malnutrition

Psychiatric/Mental Health Side Effects of Bath Salts (Synthetic Cathinones)

  • Extreme cravings1
  • Euphoria
  • Increased alertness 
  • Intensified sensory experiences
  • Confusion
  • Psychosis
  • Aggression
  • Anxiety and panic attacks
  • Paranoia and delusions
  • Hallucinations (tactile, visual, and auditory)
  • Suicidal thoughts and behaviors, self-harm, or behaviors harmful to others

Synthetic Cathinones Research on “Bath Salts”

stimulant drugs induce dopamine releaseBecause these drugs consist of an ever-changing array of different chemicals, the side effects and withdrawal effects can vary – depending on the chemical makeup of the batch ingested.

One synthetic cathinone derivative, in particular, has come up in a majority of bath salt users ending up in ER, testing positive for a compound called 3,4-methylenedioxypyrovalerone, or MDPV.1, 2, 4

Because of the prevalence of this particular agent coming up, the bulk of research has been done on MDPV’s powerful effects. There are other types of synthetics out there called “bath salts”  or called by other names.

Specific synthetic drugs, of which there are uncountable numbers, will each have a unique profile, correlating to its ingredients and how they affect neurology, and much is left to be discovered on their harmful effects. Additionally, when a person thinks they are purchasing “ecstasy” or “Molly” or other man-made street drugs, it is likely that some of these will contain MDPV or one of the hundreds of similar designer-drug compounds.2, 3

Withdrawal Symptoms “Bath Salts”

In general, the withdrawal symptoms from synthetic cathinone (bath salts) mirror the withdrawal symptoms of stimulants like cocaine or meth, including: 

  • Uncontrollable drug cravings *
  • Anxiety and panic attacks
  • Tremors  
  • Jittery reactions
  • Slowed or impaired speech
  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Insomnia or hypersomnia Including sleep disturbances and nightmares

*According to NIDA, tests on rats and also human users showed intense, uncontrollable urges to take the drug again. 

Synthetic Cathinones Addiction Treatment: How Alternative to Meds Provides an Alternative to Addiction

bath saltsAlternative to Meds Center employs corrective treatments that are directed to address the underlying causes that led a person to use recreational drugs or other addictive substances. Identifying these root issues allows us to work at correcting them, which can make lasting relief and stability a possibility. There are members of our staff who have been through similar substance abuse problems and offer our residents authentic understanding and compassion. Because of the neurological harm that drugs such as “bath salts” are known to cause,5  a program that can initiate natural rehabilitation of neurochemistry (drug-free methods) could be a beneficial treatment choice. If you or someone you care about is taking bath salts, please call us and get the guidance you are searching for.


1. National Institute on Drug Abuse, “Synthetic Cathinones (“Bath Salts”) Drug Facts.” N.D. [Internet] [cited 2020 Oct 5]

2. Baumann MH, Partilla JS, Lehner KR, et al., “Powerful Cocaine-Like Actions of 3,4-Methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV), a Principal Constituent of Psychoactive “Bath Salts” Products.” Neuropsychopharmacology 2013, 38(4) 552-562 [PubMed ID 23072836] [cited 2020 Oct 5]

3. Lopez-Arnau R, Duart-Castells L, Aster B, et al. “Effects of MDPV on dopamine transporter regulation in male rats: Comparison with cocaine.” Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2019 Mar. 236)3) 925-938 [PubMed ID 30284596] 2018 Oct 4 [cited 2020 Oct 5]

4. Magee CP, German CL, Sinpathane YH, Curtis PS, et al, “3,4-Methylenedioxypyrovalerone: Neuropharmacological Impact of a Designer Stimulant of Abuse on Monoamine Transporters.” PubMed ID 32385092 2020 May 8 [cited 2020 Oct 5]

5. Zwartsen A, Olijhoek ME, Westerink RHS, Hondebrink L, “Hazard Characterization of Synthetic Cathinones Using Viability, Monoamine Reuptake, and Neuronal Activity Assays.” PubMed ID 32063829, Front Neurosci. 2020 Jan 29 [cited 2020 Oct 5]

6. Lallanilla B, “ Why the Herbal Stimulant “Khat” was Banned.” LiveScience 2013 Jul 3 [cited 2020 Oct 5]



This content has been reviewed and approved by a licensed physician.

Dr. John Motl, M.D.

Dr. Motl is currently certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology in Psychiatry, and Board eligible in Neurology and licensed in the state of Arizona.  He holds a Bachelor of Science degree with a major in biology and minors in chemistry and philosophy. He graduated from Creighton University School of Medicine with a Doctor of Medicine.  Dr. Motl has studied Medical Acupuncture at the Colorado School of Traditional Chinese Medicine and at U.C.L.A.

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