Monsters and demons aren’t only the stuff of nightmares and horror movies – they can also seem terrifyingly real to people using synthetic drugs like bath salts. Bath salts sound innocent enough, but these stimulant drugs have caused an uproar in communities all across the U.S.
The Scope of Bath Salts Addiction
According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, calls about bath salts are up from 303 in all of 2010 to 3,470 between January and June of 2011.
Many states have passed, or at least introduced, legislation that makes it illegal to possess or use bath salts. At least 35 states have banned ingredients found in bath salts, though critics say they aren’t doing enough. All it takes is one small ingredient change to make the bath salts legal again.
The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) is considering whether it should classify bath salts as a controlled Schedule I drug like heroin or ecstasy, but the process takes years. As a result, to date there is no federal law making bath salts illegal.
There’s no question the DEA believes bath salts are a serious threat. In June 2011 federal agents arrested and prosecuted 10 people allegedly involved in a bath salt ring. The bust marks the first time the Federal Analog Act, which allows the DEA to control any chemical that is “substantially similar” to a controlled substance, has been invoked for bath salts.
Testing for Bath Salts
While they’ve escaped detection by conventional drug tests in the past, scientists are finding new ways to identify designer drugs like bath salts. Oliver Sutcliffe, Ph.D., and colleagues from the University of Strathclyde and the James Hutton Institute in the U.K. have used isotope ratio mass spectrometry to determine who is making bath salts and which companies supplied the raw materials.
Bath salts, legal marijuana and other synthetic drugs have eluded testing because their structures vary widely. Less costly types of testing are currently in the works to help officials fight the epidemic of bath salt addiction on a wider scale.
Why Bath Salts Rehab Is Necessary
The effects of bath salts abuse are dangerous and long-lasting. Emergency room doctors are reporting high fevers, high blood pressure and heart rate, and severe muscle agitation. Bath salts can also cause kidney failure, heart attack, seizures, muscle damage, stroke and even death.
“For lack of a better term, they’re flipped out. It’s almost like a psychotic break,” said Mark Ryan, the director of the Louisiana Poison Center, of people high on bath salts. “They’re extremely anxious and combative, they think there’s stuff trying to get them, they’re paranoid, they’re having hallucinations.”
More and more, drug rehab centers are receiving referrals from psychiatric hospitals that have been treating adults and teens addicted to bath salts. These drugs can literally make users psychotic, with people of all ages showing up in emergency rooms and bath salts rehab centers with extreme agitation, anxiety, paranoia and hallucinations. People have committed horrible acts of violence against themselves and others, believing that monsters, demons and aliens are out to get them.
Bath salts are highly addictive. Despite having a horrible “trip,” users experience such strong cravings that they are unable to stop using the drug without going to bath salts rehab.
In bath salts rehab, users can rid their bodies of these toxic substances with guidance and monitoring from a skilled medical team. In a residential setting, patients participate in intensive therapy, 12-Step meetings and educational sessions to learn about the disease of addiction. At the same time that they are developing new tools to cope with the demands of life, patients are actively planning and protecting against relapse.
Bath Salts Rehab Is a Long-Term Process
Even months after using bath salts, addicts can continue to experience drug cravings, agitation and extreme paranoia.
“Some of these folks aren’t right for a long time,” said Karen Simone, director of the Northern New England Poison Center. “If you gave me a list of drugs that I wouldn’t want to touch, this would be at the top.”
Because the effects of bath salts abuse can last beyond a typical 30-day stay in rehab, it is essential that addicts commit to long-term bath salts rehab. For some this may mean staying in a transitional living facility or extended care program following bath salts rehab, while others may find outpatient treatment and 12-Step support groups sufficient to maintain their sobriety.
Whatever path recovery follows, going to bath salts rehab is the first step toward a better life. Addictions to bath salts are every bit as serious and life-threatening as addictions to cocaine, meth and other stimulants.