The phrase bath salts refer to various synthetic drugs that are sold on black or gray markets displayed as regular everyday products. Synthetic or designer drugs are sold as products like plant food or bath salts marked with the phrase, “not for human consumption.”
Sellers do this to skirt the law because they are not technically selling the substance as drugs designed for consumption. However, state and federal laws try to work swiftly to ban these drugs and change the loops holes. Unfortunately, it’s like playing a game of whack-a-mole, and a new variation of the product may be on the shelf the following day.
Bath salts may refer to a number of synthetic drugs online or on the streets, but the most prevalent chemical substance found in these bath salts packages are synthetic cathinones. The most common is methylenedioxypyrovalerone, which is known as MDPV.
Bath salts often include other additives or could be other substances altogether, such as synthetic psychedelics. MDPV, however, is an addictive synthetic drug that has similar effects to cocaine and amphetamines.
Bath salt withdrawal symptoms vary based on many factors, which include the type of drug or combination of drugs you consume. MDPA is challenging to predict because there is not much known about its effects, especially in the long-term. There are some symptoms, however, consistent with bath salt withdrawal in which you should be familiar.
Bath salts are considered synthetic stimulants that inhibit our reuptake of dopamine. Similar to cocaine, bath salts also block the recycling of chemicals that our brains produce that are responsible for excitement, euphoria, creativity, and empathy. When recycling of the neurotransmitter is blocked, it will cause a build-up in our brain and cause a surge of these effects.
Over time, it’s possible to develop a dependence on the drug as the brain gets used to the extra stimulus. In addition to this, your limbic system (our reward center) will start learning to crave its euphoric effects.
If you stop using MDPV or bath salts abruptly, out of necessity, or you don’t have access to the drug, it’s possible that you’ll start to experience uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. A lack of dopamine causes most stimulant withdrawal symptoms. The brain will struggle to produce dopamine at an average rate after using the drug, and withdrawal symptoms are due to diminished dopamine levels in our brain.
Symptoms of bath salts withdrawal may include:
Stimulant withdrawal isn’t considered to be deadly, but medical complications can arise in certain circumstances. Severe depression and suicidal thoughts are dangerous, and if you are planning on stopping bath salts, you must forego the process with medical help.
The withdrawal symptoms and the timeline that you experience these effects will depend on varying factors. Some of these include the dose you used, the length of time you used bath salts, and your last dose will affect the withdrawal experience. There are genetic factors that may affect how drugs impact you. If you have a predisposition or history of suicidal thoughts, mental health issues, or depression, withdrawal symptoms are likely to be more intense.
Some people explain that bath salts follow a withdrawal timeline in two distinct phases: a crash, which is characterized by depression and lethargy, and withdrawal that is characterized by intense cravings. Some studies, however, don’t support the model that suggests these symptoms will fade gradually.
Stimulant withdrawal can appear as soon as 90 minutes after your last use. MDPV has a short half-life similar to cocaine. Amphetamines that are sometimes mixed into bath salts have a much longer half-life, which will affect your timeline. The symptoms may come on quickly but can take more than a week to disappear. From start to finish, the symptoms can last between seven to 10 days.
While bath salt withdrawal won’t be life-threatening, it is unpredictable. Any chemical addiction can potentially cause medical complications. Medical detoxification is the safest and most efficient way to get sober. A team of experienced professionals will help alleviate your worst symptoms with the aid of medications. The added risk of suicidal thoughts makes it dangerous to go through these withdrawals alone.
Once you’ve successfully removed bath salts from your body, you will still have trouble removing it from your mind. Addiction is a disease, and you must enter into a treatment facility once you complete detox. Studies show that the amount of time you spend in treatment will impact your success. The most successful outcomes are from those who spent 90 days or more in treatment. You will learn techniques that help you cope with triggers and assist you in long-term recovery.
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (n.d.). 8: Medical detoxification. from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/teaching-packets/understanding-drug-abuse-addiction/section-iii/7-medical-detoxification
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (n.d.). How long does drug addiction treatment usually last? from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/principles-drug-addiction-treatment-research-based-guide-third-edition/frequently-asked-questions/how-long-does-drug-addiction-treatment
Lago, J. A., & Kosten, T. R. (1994, November). Stimulant withdrawal. from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7841859
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (n.d.). Synthetic Cathinones ("Bath Salts"). from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/synthetic-cathinones-bath-salts