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Bath Salts

What It Is:

The name "bath salts" sounds innocent, but these are powerful and dangerous stimulant drugs.

Sometimes Called:

bloom, cloud nine, flakka, scarface, vanilla sky, and white lightning

How It's Used:

Bath salts are sold as a white or off-white powder, mostly in small plastic or foil packages. The drugs are usually snorted (sniffed up a nostril). They also can be swallowed, smoked, or mixed with a liquid and injected with a syringe.

What It Does:

Bath salts contain manmade chemicals that increase brain and central nervous system activity in much the same way as drugs like amphetamines or MDMA (ecstasy).

Bath salts can cause users to have an out-of-body experience, elated mood, or feel delirious. These effects can last up to 3–4 hours.

Other short-term effects include:

  • agitation and irritability
  • insomnia
  • dizziness
  • panic attacks
  • depression
  • suicidal thoughts
  • paranoia
  • delusions and hallucinations
  • distorted sense of reality
  • decreased ability to think clearly
  • mood disturbances and psychosis

Physical effects of bath salts include:

  • decreased muscle and body control
  • increased blood pressure and body temperature
  • chest pains
  • irregular heartbeat
  • nosebleeds
  • feeling sick and throwing up
  • seizures
  • stroke
  • heart attack
  • brain swelling

Users can also develop what is called "excited delirium." When this happens, people get dehydrated, their muscle tissue breaks down, and they can go into kidney failure and die.

Long-term abuse of bath salts may cause people to have hallucinations, hear voices, feel paranoid, and develop a psychosis that resembles schizophrenia.

People who use bath salts easily can get addicted to them. They may feel driven to do whatever they can to keep getting high, including taking risks.

Bath salts can cause heart problems and seizures. Taking too much of the drug at one time can lead to an overdose. All these things can be deadly, even if someone only tries the drug once.

Bath salts have caused a number of deaths and been blamed for a handful of suicides and murders.

Two of the chemicals in bath salts (mephedrone and MDPV) are Schedule I class drugs. That means they have a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use. People who are caught with bath salts can face fines and jail time.

Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: May 2018