Bath Salts made lots of news headlines in the year of 2015. Horrific stories were published by a multitude of news stories, yet not much credible information regarding the long term effects of bath salts has been published.
Bath salts have serious side effects, both physically and mentally. Let’s look deeper into how bath salts affect the users.
What are Bath Salts?
Bath salts, also marketed as “plant food” or “phone cleaner”, are a fairly new group of drugs that have been growing in popularity over the past few years. Not to be confused with personal care products, such as Epsom salts, this so-called designer drug is dangerous and its composition is highly variable from batch to batch. The packages of this drug are marked “not for human consumption” in order for drug makers to skirt the law. Common brand names for bath salts include:
- White lightning
- Vanilla sky
- Ivory wave
- Cloud 9
Bath salts are a synthesized, amphetamine-like drug that is similar to the alkaloid substance called cathinone. Cathinone is a naturally occurring substance that is found in the Catha edulis shrub, which is indigenous to parts of eastern Africa. Although this drug is most typically smoked, it can also be snorted or injected. The short-term intoxicating effects of a bath salt high can include the following:
- Delusional thoughts
- Increased heart rate
- Heightened blood pressure
- Behavioral changes
Since designer drugs are a fairly new part of the drug scene, the long term effects of bath salts are still largely unknown. However, nearly 23,000 emergency room visits have been linked to the abuse of this substance annually.
Bath Salts and the Zombie Apocalypse
Zombies are popular in literature and television, and many people like to jokingly refer to preparing for the zombie apocalypse. However, flesh-eating humans aren’t as funny when this behavior becomes a reality.
In 2012, Miami police were shocked to be dispatched to a grisly crime scene. A nude male was found literally chewing and ripping off pieces of another male’s face, apparently driven to madness by smoking bath salts.
The assailant, 31-year-old Rudy Eugene, was only stopped after an officer fired several shots, eventually killing him. The victim was rushed to a local hospital, where doctors reported that 75-80 percent of his face had been ripped apart by Eugene’s drug-fueled hunger for human flesh.
Another disturbing attack in 2012 was also accredited to the assailant using bath salts. 31 year old Carly Murphy apparently smoked bath salts in a hospital just 2 days following the birth of her baby. She viciously attacked hospital staff, beating doctors and nurses with super-human strength. She also attacked officers by biting and attempting to chew at their flesh.
The Straight Dope on Bath Salts
Although bath salts are available over the counter at places like smoke shops and some convenience stores, this substance is anything but innocuous. Why does smoking these white crystals cause people to become unhinged and brutally attack those around them?
- Increasing dopamine levels
- Raising levels of serotonin
- Causing surges in levels of norepinephrine
However, bath salts are even more potent than the street drugs they are meant to mimic, with some research suggesting that they may be up to 10 times as potent as cocaine.
The quick and dramatic surges in these important neurotransmitters often results in a state of psychosis, and users develop high levels of physical strength from these chemical releases. Although it is unclear why so many users of bath salts begin to attack others in a cannibalistic manner, people high on this drug are for some reason driven to act in violent, brutal and predatory ways.
Mental Effects of Bath Salts
The recipe for each batch of bath salts often varies wildly because manufacturers switch up their ingredients in order to avoid using illegal substances. Although the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) outlaws active components of designer drugs as they become aware of them, manufacturers are usually as least one step ahead of the authorities by integrating currently non-listed intoxicating chemicals.
Thus, the variability of this drug makes predicting the long term effects of bath salts very difficult. However, aside from developing psychosis, bath salt users are at risk for developing the following mental issues:
- Suicidal thoughts or actions
- Panic attacks
- Extreme confusion
- Dependency and addiction
Physical Effects of Bath Salts
The amphetamine-like action of bath salts produces an intense stress upon the human body. Physiologic consequences of bath salts can include:
- Kidney failure
- Liver damage
- Lack of appetite
- Heart arrhythmia
- Heart attack
- Increased body temperature
- Teeth grinding
- Muscle fiber degradation, possibly leading to heart failure and death
Unfortunately, many people who experiment with bath salts end up dying as a result. Over the past decade, there has been a 98 percent increase in deaths due to consumption of designer drugs.
Drug Prohibition and the Creation of the Designer Drug Market
Given the devastating consequences of smoking bath salts, it’s surprising that so many people choose to use this drug. However, addicts often turn to designer drugs in order to satiate their craving to get high.
Since the components of designer drugs change so often, they are difficult to detect in most drug tests. Thus, for people who are on probation or are otherwise a potential candidate for drug testing, these drugs offer a way to get high without facing legal consequences.
To any educated social critic, the use of bath salts and other designer drugs sounds strikingly familiar to the consumption of dangerous Prohibition-era home brews. When the U.S. government banned the production, sale and consumption of alcohol in 1920, people certainly didn’t stop drinking. They were merely forced to purchase their intoxicants in an unregulated and dangerous underground market. In fact, consumption of moonshine, the liquor of choice for Prohibition era drinkers, was often contaminated due to unsafe brewing practices. Many people died from imbibing these deadly cocktails.
Essentially, drug laws are forcing drug users to find loopholes in the rules in order to get high. Unfortunately, drug abuse and addiction is a social issue that will never be completely eradicated. However, criminalizing the mental illness of substance abuse has resulted in creating an underground drug economy that profits off of human suffering, senseless deaths and the refusal of a national government to address the problem at its core.
While the use of bath salts itself is quite disturbing, the reasons influencing the increased popularity of this drug are even more so. The next time you hear a story about a bath salt user, take the time to reflect upon why people are driven to such extremes in order to get high. The true long term effects of bath salts are yet to be discovered, but perhaps society can help to alleviate these consequences by offering support and treatment for the users of this drug.