Not Quite Molly: 40% Of Ecstasy Users Actually Taking Bath Salts

By John Lavitt 03/15/16

A new study found that MDMA is commonly mixed with bath salts and other synthetic drugs, unbeknownst to many MDMA users. 

Not Quite Molly: 40% Of Ecstasy Users Actually Taking Bath Salts
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New research has shown that if you take MDMA, you've likely ingested other drugs as well, including bath salts.

By examining the hair samples of partygoers who claim to have only taken the popular party drug, also known as ecstasy or Molly, researchers found positive results for a variety of contaminants, including bath salts and other synthetic drugs.

In the study, published February in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, researchers collected hair samples from 48 MDMA users outside nightclubs or at festivals and raves in the New York City area. Most of the respondents said they had never knowingly ingested bath salts or any unknown powders in the past. Despite this claim, only half of the hair samples tested positive for MDMA. Around 40% tested positive for a variety of bath salts, with the rest testing positive for other synthetic drugs. Naturally, some of the subjects tested positive for multiple drugs.

“A lot of people are so inexperienced, they don’t know what ecstasy is supposed to feel like, because they have been taking bath salts the whole time,” study lead author Joseph Palamar, a researcher at New York University, told Newsweek. Palamar believes that many of the partygoers were given bath salts unknowingly.

Bath salts generally don’t have the exact same effects as pure MDMA, such as increased empathy and sociability. To an inexperienced user, however, some bath salts can mimic the effects of ecstasy. The most commonly detected bath salts were butylone and methylone, which are well-known adulterants because their effects are similar to MDMA.

At dance festivals and clubs across the world, the so-called party drugs are sold on dance floors, in bathrooms, and on waiting lines. These drugs go through almost no vetting process. With dealers here and gone, the chance of buying a cheap knock-off of a drug that contains dangerous contaminants is a real concern for some.

“Prevention and harm reduction education is needed for this population and “drug checking” (e.g., pill testing) may be beneficial for those rejecting abstinence,” the research team concluded. DanceSafe, a harm reduction organization for recreational drug use, promotes drug testing kits on its website.

"Given the sharp rise in poisonings and recent deaths at dance festivals related to ecstasy use, research was needed to examine whether nightclub/festival attendees who use ecstasy or Molly have been unintentionally or unknowingly using bath salts," said Palamar. "Little is known about these new drugs and some may be more dangerous than MDMA."

He added that "bath salts won’t turn you into a zombie or a face-eating monster," but that "you don’t want to take them."

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Growing up in Manhattan as a stutterer, John Lavitt discovered that writing was the best way to express himself when the words would not come. After graduating with honors from Brown University, he lived on the Greek island of Patmos, studying with his mentor, the late American poet Robert Lax. As a writer, John’s published work includes three articles in Chicken Soup For The Soul volumes and poems in multiple poetry journals and compilations. Active in recovery, John has been the Treatment Professional News Editor for The Fix. Since 2015, he has published over 500 articles on the addiction and recovery news website. Today, he lives in Los Angeles, trying his best to be happy and creative. Find John on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.