Bath Salts Addiction: Signs, Symptoms, Withdrawal, and Recovery

By The Fix staff 01/21/15

Bath Salts Addiction: Signs, Symptoms, Withdrawal, and Recovery

Bath Salts Addiction

Synthetic cathinones, also known as "bath salts," are a family of drugs that contain at least one synthetic chemical related to cathinone, a drug similar to amphetamines. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, cathinones are naturally found in the Khat plant and can cause both feelings of intoxication and dangerous side effects. The synthetic versions of this drug are also quite dangerous, causing them to draw a growing concern. 

Bath salts can bring a user euphoria, along with an increased social ability, but this euphoria can come with undesired effects such as paranoia, agitation, hallucinations, bizarre and erratic behavior, and even death. The energizing effects are caused by a surge in dopamine, a neurotransmitter that controls the brain's reward system and bodily movement. Bath salts raise dopamine levels in a similar manner to cocaine, but with much more potent results. Hallucinations from bath salts are caused by a rise in serotonin, similar to the effects seen in MDMA use. Like these other drugs, bath salts very often result in overdose and poisoning.

Bath salts have caused a large number of emergency room visits and poison control calls all over the nation. Those who call, or are seen due to bath salts complications report having an increased heart rate, high blood pressure, and chest pains. Psychiatric symptoms such as paranoia, hallucinations, and panic attacks have been regularly reported as well.

Indicators point to bath salts having a very high potential for abuse and addiction. Those who have used the drug say that it causes extremely strong cravings. Repeated use can result in tolerance, dependence, and intense withdrawal symptoms when not taking the drug. Another danger related to bath salts is that the purchased product may contain other unknown drugs or ingredients that make it even more harmful.

Signs of Bath Salts Addiction

Those who are addicted to bath salts may display warning signs, which can allow for identification of the addiction. The common signs of bath salts addiction are:

  • Anxious and jittery behavior
  • Insomnia, increased heart rate, nausea, impaired motor skills, seizures
  • Severe bouts of paranoia, depression, panic attacks, agitation, and thoughts of suicide
  • Bizarre and erratic behavior that may come as a result of hallucinations
  • Violent behavior and self-mutilation
  • Loss of appetite

Side Effects of Bath Salt Abuse

The most dangerous side effect of bath salts may be their tendency to cause addiction. Since bath salts have properties similar to those of cocaine, they also have similar side effects. Some bath salts addiction side effects include:

  • Increased heart rate
  • High blood pressure
  • Dilated pupils
  • Increased risk of heart attack
  • Increased risk of stroke
  • Headaches
  • Heart palpitations
  • Loss of appetite
  • Bizarre and erratic behavior
  • Dizziness
  • Psychosis
  • Mood disorders
  • Ulcers
  • Malnutrition
  • Severe depression
  • Psychosis
  • Loss of coordination
  • Cardiac issues

One side effect of bath salts abuse is an increased risk of mood disorders. These disorders can result in suicide attempts and extreme depression and anxiety, which may lead to self-mutilation and delirium. 

Bath Salts Withdrawal

When someone has come off the drug, whether due to detox or an extended period without the drug, withdrawal symptoms will occur. The longer a person was using bath salts before withdrawal, the more intense the withdrawal symptoms will be. Therefore, in some detoxification programs, it is necessary that a patient be tapered off the drug, which means gradually reducing use of the drug down to zero. 

Common symptoms of bath salts addiction withdrawal include:

  • Intense cravings for the drug
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Decreased memory
  • Fatigue
  • Nasal congestion
  • Amnesia
  • Violent behavior
  • Long but poor quality sleep

Bath Salts Addiction Detox

Bath salts are highly toxic to the system and have the potential to cause serious mental and physical damage. The medical field has seen a steep increase in the number of cases involving bath salts in poison control centers and emergency rooms. Therefore, before a person can go through a full treatment program, they must eliminate bath salts from their body. Detoxification can be done in both inpatient and outpatient programs. The former requires a stay at a facility and the latter requires a patient to periodically check in for medical assistance when going through a detox at home.

A severe addiction comes with more severe withdrawal symptoms that will need monitoring at all hours of the day. An outpatient program is meant to help those with a less severe addiction. Below are some additional reasons why someone with a mild addiction may choose an outpatient program:

  • Patients can receive more social support from friends and family
  • Patients can maintain relationships
  • Patients have more freedom

What Happens at a Detox Center?

According to, a patient will be assigned a therapist upon arriving at a detox center. This therapist will initiate questioning on the patient’s drug usage and history. He or she will then put together a custom treatment plan based on answers given. Once this process is complete, the patient will be given a tour of the facility and be shown to his or her room. A counselor will help guests unpack to make sure no contraband items have been brought in. Next, a full physical exam will be given to determine if there are any further considerations involved with the treatment plan assigned. A person may receive medications to alleviate some symptoms of bath salts addiction withdrawal.

As the patient recovers enough from withdrawal symptoms, they will attend group and individual therapy sessions. Patients will start to learn how to cope with the triggers that contributed to their addiction. Once a patient has completed the detox process by eliminating all drugs from his or her system, then the patient will begin the rehabilitation phase of treatment.

Rehab for Bath Salts Addiction

Bath salts can be extremely addictive and very hard to stop using on one's own, especially in severe cases. Therefore, most people dealing with this addiction need to spend a good amount of time in a bath salts addiction rehab center. The amount of rehabilitation time needed for each person will vary based on the severity of the addiction. According to, it’s often in the patient’s best interest to spend as much time as possible in a rehabilitation center, generally 90 - 120 days, before stepping down to a less-restrictive level of care. 

Considerations When Picking a Rehab Center

An individualized treatment program is an important aspect of a good recovery program. Different people will have different needs when it comes to creating a successful rehab plan. Varying needs may include mental and physical health, as well as cultural considerations. 

The best way to make sure a person is picking a good facility is to take a tour. One should observe how other patients are being treated and ask a lot of questions about the facility's rehabilitation process to decide whether or not it is a good fit. 

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