Updated on November 29, 2023
7 min read

What Does Bath Salts Addiction Look Like? Know the Signs

What Are Bath Salts?

Bath salts are synthetic cathinone, a class of drugs known for their stimulant effects. Cathinone is a chemical found naturally in a khat plant, a shrub grown in East Africa and Southern Arabia.

While bath salts may share some structural similarities with naturally occurring cathinones found in the khat plant, they are chemically distinct and significantly more potent. These characteristics often result in effects similar to those produced by drugs such as MDMA or amphetamines.

Bath salts are ‘New Psychoactive Substances’ that have no medical use but are produced for recreational use, which can potentially lead to misuse and abuse.

Bath Salt Street Names

This illicit drug also goes by the following street names:

  • Vanilla Sky
  • Bliss
  • White Lightning
  • Lunar Wave
  • Ivory Wave
  • Purple Wave
  • Blue Silk
  • Red Dove

Are Bath Salts Addictive?

Bath salts are designed to mimic other drugs of abuse (like cocaine and MDMA) and can be highly addictive. Although more research is required, a survey of 1,500 people who use bath salts found that over 50% of users consider it addictive.7

Taking this dangerous drug can cause feelings of intense cravings that lead to drug binges, making it very hard to stop. Regular drug use can then lead to tolerance, where the body requires a larger dose to feel the same effect.

Consuming larger doses regularly can make the body become dependent on bath salts to function normally. People may become physically and psychologically reliant on the drug, feeling the need to chase the feeling of euphoria that comes from taking bath salts. This misuse can then result in addiction.


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Bath Salts Addiction Symptoms

Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when stopping is a key sign of bath salt addiction. Drug addiction is a serious illness and can change the way people think and behave.

Someone addicted to bath salts may have physical symptoms and might have a hard time performing daily activities.

More signs and symptoms of a bath salt addiction include:

  • Preoccupation with finding bath salts and feelings of stress or anger if they are unable to take them
  • Ignoring the consequences of taking bath salts
  • Taking a higher dose than normal 
  • Using bath salts regularly
  • Poor hygiene
  • Low mood or agitation if they are unable to take drugs
  • Changes in appetite or weight change
  • Loss of interest in things they would usually enjoy

Bath Salt Intoxication Symptoms

The most common synthetic cathinone in bath salts is 3,4 methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV). It is a stimulant in the synthetic cathinone class with a very high potential for abuse. It is usually taken for recreational purposes.

Intoxication to MDPV can result in dangerous physiological symptoms, such as:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Irregular heart rhythm
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Hallucinations
  • Psychosis
  • Psychomotor agitation
  • And many more

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What Are the Side Effects of Bath Salts?

As one of the many synthetic cathinones, bath salts are stimulants that can produce an intense ‘high’ or feelings of euphoria. This high can make people uninhibited or overly friendly, but it can also have negative and dangerous side effects.

Adverse Physical Effects

Toxic physical effects of synthetic cathinone include:

  • Panic attacks
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • High blood pressure
  • Chest pain
  • Dehydration
  • Organ damage

Dangerous Psychological Effects

Despite the widespread use of bath salts, there is little understanding of how most synthetic cathinone derivatives affect the mind and a user’s behavior.

The known psychological effects include:

  • Extreme paranoia, feeling suspicious
  • Excited delirium
  • Extreme anxiety
  • Increased sociability
  • Aggressive/combative behavior
  • Increased sex drive
  • Hallucinations and acute psychosis
  • Suicidal thoughts

Effects of Bath Salt Withdrawal

There are also side effects when immediately stopping the use of bath salts. Suddenly quitting can result in withdrawal symptoms, which can range from uncomfortable to dangerous.

These might include symptoms like:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Tremors
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Headaches
  • Feeling paranoid

What Are the Risks of Bath Salt Use?

Bath salts bring about physical and psychological risks. They are very potent and can make people take risks they wouldn’t usually take, increasing the possibility of accidents or injuries. It can also cause dehydration, causing muscle tissue to break down.

Regular use of bath salts can lead to severe long-term organ damage and may result in kidney failure. There are also psychological risks associated with the euphoric or delirious state that bath salts produce.

Bath salts can significantly disrupt essential brain chemicals, such as serotonin and dopamine. A significant change in your body’s production of these chemicals can lead to severe mood disturbances or “comedowns.”

Risk of Overdose

As with any drug, using bath salts alone or in combination with other drugs comes with a risk of overdose. Bath salts are not regulated, and there’s no way to know what exactly is in the drug. This uncertainty can increase the risk of overdose, as some people may not know how much they are taking or whether it’s mixed with other designer drugs.

Bath Salts Overdose Symptoms

A person who has overdosed on MDPV-containing bath salts may need to be admitted to the intensive care unit for close monitoring. This is because there is no known antidote for overdose cases.

Watch out for signs and symptoms of bath salts overdose, which include:

  • Aggressiveness
  • Cardiovascular collapse
  • Extreme agitation
  • Violent behavior
  • Hallucinations
  • Paranoia
  • Psychosis
  • Seizures
  • Stroke
  • Respiratory distress

If you or someone you know experiences these toxic effects, visit the emergency department immediately.

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Bath Salts Addiction Treatment

Although more research is required on specific treatment for bath salt addiction, a combination of medication and therapy effectively supports recovery. Many different types of therapy are available for substance use disorders, such as bath salt addiction.

The first step in treatment is dealing with the initial side effects of the drug, like managing body temperature and any aggressive behavior. Healthcare providers will screen for co-occurring mental health conditions, provide necessary medical advice, and develop an appropriate treatment plan.

People may undergo behavioral therapies like:

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy is a talk therapy that aims to identify and challenge ways of thinking. It also helps people develop new skills and strategies to support recovery.

Individual or Group Therapy

Sessions may occur one-on-one or in a group where people can learn from each other’s experiences.

Motivational Enhancement Therapy

This type of therapy is time-limited and explores the desire and motivation to take drugs.

Peer Support

Support from friends, family, or therapy groups like 12-step programs can be critical to addiction recovery.

Common Questions on Bath Salts Addiction

How are bath salts consumed?

Bath salts are typically smoked, snorted, or injected, and the effects usually last up to 8 hours. These effects can last up to several days. They are typically undetectable on drug tests.

Needle injection or snorting of bath salts causes the greatest harm. Some also mix bath salts with alcohol and other drugs, which is very dangerous.

Since 2010, the use of bath salts in the U.S. has grown rapidly, which has led to an increase in calls to poison control centers and emergency room visits.

Bath salts are hazardous because they are unregulated and illegally sold in small packets of plastic or foil.

What is the difference between bath salts and Epsom salts?

Bath salts are not Epsom salts. Epsom salts do not contain synthetic cathinones. Instead, Epsom salts contain magnesium and sulfate, providing skin, hair, relaxation, and digestive benefits.

Are bath salts illegal?

Bath salts are illegal. In 2011, then-president Obama banned mephedrone, methylone, and MDVP and labeled the bath salts drug a Schedule I controlled substance.

Schedule I designer drugs are prohibited from being prescribed and sold under any circumstances. The law also bans new psychoactive substances that mimic the effects of bath salts.

Despite these laws, bath salts are often sold online. Drug makers also distribute them through head shops or even at convenience stores and gas stations under the guise of “glass cleaner” or other household cleaning products.

What do bath salts look like?

Bath salts usually come in white or brown crystal powder wrapped in plastic or foil packages. These can be labeled as jewelry cleaner, research chemicals, glass cleaner, phone screen cleaner, or plant food. They are generally labeled as “not for human consumption.”


Taking bath salts has many risks, but stopping can be even more difficult. Dependence on bath salts can lead to tolerance and addiction. 

People who are addicted to bath salts require professional help to support their recovery. Multiple types of regulated treatment are available to aid them in their journey. If you or someone you know needs intervention, seek help and reach out for treatment today.

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Updated on November 29, 2023
7 sources cited
Updated on November 29, 2023
  1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “Synthetic Cathinones (“Bath Salts”).” National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2023.
  2. Prosser, J.M., and Nelson, L.S. “The Toxicology of Bath Salts: A Review of Synthetic Cathinones.” Journal of Medical Toxicology, 2011.
  3. Johnson, P.S., and Johnson, M.W. “Investigation of “Bath Salts” Use Patterns Within an Online Sample of Users in the United States.” Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 2014.
  4. Baumann et al. “Psychoactive “bath salts”: not so soothing.” European Journal of Pharmacology, 2013.
  5. Scherbaum et al. “New Psychoactive Substances (NPS) – a Challenge for the Addiction Treatment Services.” Pharmacopsychiatry, 2017.
  6. McClenahan et al. "Cardiovascular effects of 3,4-methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV) in male and female Sprague-Dawley rats." Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 2019.
  7. Prosser JM and Nelson LS. “The Toxicology of Bath Salts: A Review of Synthetic Cathinones.” Journal of Medical Toxicology, 2011.

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