Bath Saltsis the informal “street name” for a family of designer drugs often containing substituted cathinones, which have effects similar to amphetamine and cocaine. The white crystals resemble legal bathing products like epsom salts, and are called bath salts with the packaging often stating “not for human consumption.” Chemically, Bath Salts have nothing to do with actual bath salts.
Drugs marketed as “Bath Salts” first came to the attention of authorities in the US in 2010 after reports were made to US poison centers. In Europe, the drugs were predominantly purchased from drug dealers or from websites, but in the US they were mainly sold in small independent stores such as gas stations and head shops. In the US, this often made them easier to obtain than cigarettes and alcohol.
Very little is known about how Bath Salts interact with the brain and how they are metabolised by the body. They are similar to amphetamines in that they cause stimulant effects by increasing the concentration of catecholamines such as dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine in synapses.
Bath Salts can be swallowed, snorted, smoked, or injected. Swallowing and snorting are the most common routes of administration. Bath Salts are active at doses of between 3 mg and 5 mg, with the average dose being between 5 mg and 20 mg. The risk of overdose is high, however, since the packets often contain 500 mg and some suggest users use 50 mg.
Users of Bath Salts have reported experiencing symptoms including headache, heart palpitations, and nausea. Hallucinations, paranoia, and panic attacks have also been reported, and news media have reported associations with violent behavior, heart attack, kidney failure, liver failure, suicide, and an increased tolerance for pain. Visual symptoms similar to those of stimulant overdoses include dilated pupils, involuntary muscle movement, rapid heartbeat, rapid pressured speech and high blood pressure.
The Federal drug policy of the United States reflects the fact that Bath Salts are illegal in at least 41 states, with legislation pending in others. Prior to the compounds being made illegal, mephedrone, methylone and MDPV had all been marketed as Bath Salts. In July 2012, President Barack Obama signed a bill that amended the Federal drug policy of the United States to ban Bath Salts. New York State banned the sale and distribution of the drug in May of 2011.