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Bath Salt Addiction and Abuse

How does someone develop a bath salt addiction? Read on to learn about the signs, symptoms, and treatment options.

Understanding Bath Salt Addiction

When you think of bath salts, you may envision spa products and Epsom salts. However, bath salts also refer to a category of synthetic drugs which give users stimulant-like effects. Bath salts are also commonly referred to as synthetic cathinones, due to their similar chemical structure to a substance called cathinone, derived from the East African khat plant.[1]

Bath salts are man made, which is part of what makes their use so dangerous. People who use bath salts can potentially develop a bath salt addiction, leading to dangerous health conditions like increased blood pressure, paranoia, dehydration, and delirium.

bath salt abuse 

Bath Salt Addiction Statistics

Some bath salt addiction facts to consider include:

  • MDPV, the most common chemical in bath salts, raises dopamine in the brain the same way that cocaine does, but is ten times more potent.[2]
  • In 2011, bath salt use was involved in over twenty thousand emergency room visits in the United States.[3]
  • There were over six thousand bath salt poisonings in 2011, but the number has continually dropped since then.[4]

Bath Salt Addiction Causes

When someone uses bath salts, they will likely experience a rush of euphoria or energy. The effects of the drug are compared to other stimulants like cocaine, meth, and ecstasy, and because of that, there is a high potential for a substance abuse disorder to develop.

Like other substance abuse, bath salt abuse is caused by a combination of individual, genetic, and environmental risk factors. A person with a family history of addiction may be more likely to abuse substances including bath salts. Additionally, research shows that people with adverse childhood experiences are more likely to face addiction.

Bath Salt Addiction Risk Factors

Other addiction risk factors include:

  • Peer pressure: Bath salt use is more common in certain demographics and locations (like the partying scene), so you may be more likely to use bath salts depending on the people around you, along with if they also abuse bath salts.
  • Stress: Without positive coping mechanisms, some people turn to substances to cope with negative feelings like stress. 
  • Psychological triggers: Underlying mental health conditions may make you more susceptible to substance use.[5

Signs of Bath Salt Addiction

Bath salts can be taken orally, inhaled, or injected, with the most problems being associated with injection and snorting. When someone is experiencing synthetic cathinones addiction, they will likely show signs of bath salt abuse across a variety of physical, psychological, and behavioral symptoms.

Signs of addiction include:  

  • Paranoia
  • Hallucinations
  • Panic attacks
  • Irritability
  • Extreme agitation and violent behavior
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Chest pain
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Nausea
  • Weight loss
  • Teeth grinding
  • Sleep issues
  • Social withdrawal

Potential Consequences of Bath Salt Consumption 

Because bath salts are not regulated, it is impossible for those who use the drug to know how much they’re using, and what exact chemicals are in the bath salts. There is also little research on the overall effects of bath salts. What we do know is that bath salt abuse can induce psychosis, which is a condition in the brain that leads to erratic behavior and personality disorders.

When researchers compared MRIs of a person’s brain on bath salts to a person with schizophrenia’s brain, there were similarities.[6

Short-Term Symptoms

Some of the short-term bath salt addiction symptoms include:

  • Intense cravings for the drug
  • Feelings of depression
  • Severe agitation
  • Nightmares
  • Insomnia
  • Emotional volatility
  • Psychosis
  • Hallucinations and delusions
  • Self-harm
  • Suicidal thoughts

Physical Effects of Bath Salt Consumption

Bath salts can also cause physical effects like rashes, fever, excessive sweating, nosebleeds, muscle tension, and more. In severe cases, bath salt abuse can lead to seizures, heart attacks, and brain stem herniation, which can all be fatal.

Additionally, bath salt overdose is a possibility, as synthetic cathinone intoxication has resulted in dangerous levels of dehydration, breakdown of the body’s skeletal muscle tissues, kidney failure, and death.

Long-Term Symptoms

Long-term effects of bath salts use include:

  • Increased blood pressure and heart rate
  • Kidney damage or failure
  • Damage to the liver
  • Breakdown of the skeletal muscle tissue
  • Brain swelling

Bath Salts Withdrawal

When someone quits using bath salts, they will likely face withdrawal symptoms. As with other addictive drugs, the body goes through mental, physical, and emotional disturbances as the body cleanses itself of the toxins and begins the process of recovery.

Someone going through bath salts withdrawal can expect to feel:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Tremors
  • Insomnia
  • Paranoia
  • Irritability
bath salt abuse 

Bath Salt Addiction Treatment

If you or a loved one are interested in getting help for bath salts addiction, know that there are many options available to you. When treating any substance use disorder, the first step is typically a detox program, where you can be medically supervised and supported as you detox from the drug in a medical facility. It is possible to detox at home, but people who complete detox in a facility may be more likely to stay sober, safe, and also experience fewer unpleasant withdrawal symptoms.

After detoxing, bath salt addiction treatment typically involves therapy interventions to get to the root of the addiction issue and any other co-occurring mental health issue. Common therapy techniques used for addiction include:

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy

Studies show that cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) can be very effective at treating addiction. In this type of therapy, individuals learn how to identify negative thinking patterns which may contribute to addiction issues. Once negative patterns are identified, individuals can work with therapists to reframe their thoughts and find more positive coping mechanisms.[7]

Contingency Management

This type of therapy can also be useful in treating bath salts abuse, as it involves rewarding individuals for “good behavior,” or staying sober. Contingency management can be an effective and motivating way for people to recover from bath salts abuse with a goal in mind.

Motivational Enhancement Therapy (MET)

MET is a type of therapy that helps people identify the reasons why they want to get help for their addiction issues. This therapy is particularly useful for people who have little motivation to quit using drugs and who need encouragement and self-awareness to begin their recovery from bath salt drug addiction.

Genesis Recovery

If you’re looking for high-quality, compassionate treatment, you can find exactly that at Genesis Recovery. Healing from addiction can be a challenging journey, but you don’t have to do it alone. At Genesis Recovery, we’re with you every step of the way, helping you find the path to living a fulfilling and positive life.


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