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Bath Salts (Synthetic Cathinones): Effects, Addiction, & Treatment

2 min read · 6 sections

Bath salts refers to a wide range of synthetic stimulant drugs that are chemically similar to cathinone, a naturally-occurring substance that is found in the khat plant. There are over 100 types of synthetic cathinones, with more appearing every year.1,2 Their chemical structures are easily modified in order to circumvent legal controls.3

Synthetic cathinones are designed to mimic the effects of more traditional psychostimulants like cocaine, methamphetamine, and MDMA (ecstasy). They may be consumed intentionally as cheaper or more accessible alternatives to these other drugs, or unintentionally as adulterants, or filler, to traditional street drugs or in counterfeit pills.1,2,3

This page will discuss their effects, dangers, signs of addiction, and how to get treatment.

How Are Bath Salts Used?

Bath salts are sold as a white or brown crystalline powder, or in liquid or tablet form. Synthetic cathinones may be:4,5

  • Consumed orally. 
  • Snorted. 
  • Dissolved in water and injected.

Effects & Dangers of Bath Salts

The different and potentially ever-changing chemical composition of synthetic cathinones means that the range of effects that people experience while using them could vary from one situation to the next.3

In general, taking bath salts may elicit:3 

  • Euphoria. 
  • Alertness. 
  • Sociability. 
  • Motivation.
  • Reduced appetite.
  • Increased sex drive.
  • Hallucinations.
  • Insomnia.

High doses or repeated use can induce serious symptoms such as:3,5

  • Rapid heart rate.
  • Hypertension.
  • Paranoia.
  • Raised body temperature.
  • Delusions.
  • Psychosis.
  • Aggressive and erratic behavior.
  • Seizures.
  • Coma.
  • Stroke.
  • Serotonin syndrome.

Bath salts are rarely used alone and are commonly mixed with substances, heightening their risk of medical and psychiatric complications.2

Can You Get Addicted to Bath Salts?

Yes, research shows that for some people, addiction to bath salts is possible, as synthetic cathinones can produce neurochemical changes similar to those that occur during the misuse of other stimulants like cocaine and amphetamines.1

Research also suggests that those who use bath salts chronically may experience tolerance and withdrawal symptoms, both potential indicators of addiction.2 

People who have used bath salts for a long time also report having periods of “excessive” binging, where they use large amounts of bath salts in increasing doses to maintain the euphoric effects of the drug.2 

People who use bath salts regularly may develop an addiction to synthetic cathinones, which is clinically diagnosed as a stimulant use disorder.1

Signs of Bath Salts Addiction

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5) is what clinicians use to diagnose mental health disorders, including substance use disorders. To be diagnosed with a stimulant use disorder, a person with an addiction to bath salts would need to exhibit at least 2 of the following symptoms within 12 months:7

  1. Bath salts are used in a larger amount or for a longer time than intended.
  2. Making multiple attempts to control use of bath salts.
  3. A large proportion of the person’s time is spent obtaining, using, and recovering from bath salt use.
  4. The person experiences an uncontrollable urge or craving to use bath salts.
  5. Recurrent use resulting in failure to fulfill obligations at school, home, or work.
  6. The person keeps ingesting bath salts despite social or interpersonal problems that are created by or worsened by substance use.
  7. Important obligations or recreational activities are neglected because of using bath salts.
  8. The person uses bath salts in situations that could be physically dangerous, such as while driving.
  9. The person continues bath salt use despite knowing that it is having a detrimental effect on a person’s social life or relationships.
  10. Tolerance, meaning an increasingly larger amount of bath salts is needed to achieve the desired effect or using the same amount results in blunted effects.
  11. The person experiences withdrawal symptoms when they reduce or quit using bath salts, or they may continue using them to avoid withdrawal.

Withdrawal Symptoms of Bath Salts

Some of the commonly reported bath salts withdrawal symptoms include:2,4 

  • Tiredness.
  • Insomnia.
  • Nasal congestion.
  • Impaired concentration.
  • Depression
  • Anxiety.

While often very uncomfortable, stimulant withdrawal is rarely life-threatening. Some patients may benefit from monitoring for serious psychological symptoms like depression, psychosis, and suicidal ideation.8

Treatment for Bath Salts Addiction

The FDA has not any approved medications to treat bath salt addiction or withdrawal. However, there is evidence that psychotherapy among other drug management protocols are effective methods of long-term treatment.2

If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, help is available. The admissions navigators at American Addiction Centers (AAC) can help you understand how to treat stimulant addiction and provide information on various treatment centers around the U.S. Call us today at and take the first step towards a life in recovery.

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