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Bath Salt Abuse Among Teens: What You Need to Know


teen who is addicted to "bath salts"

Bath salts are toxic drugs that are man-made out of various unnatural substances and chemicals. Though commonly known as “bath salts,” this is a drug that actually has nothing to do with real bath salts. They are made up of synthetic chemicals that are related to cathinone. Originally found as a natural stimulant in the Khat plant, cathinone is an amphetamine-like stimulant. Khat is a leafy plant that is commonly found in East Africa and the Arabian Peninsula where it is grown abundantly. The synthetic cathinones used to create bath salts are chemically akin to other types of amphetamines such as methamphetamine and MDMA (Ecstasy or Molly). Usually, bath salts appear in a powdered form and are commonly brown, yellow, off-white, or white in color. Sometimes bath salts are sold in small jars in a liquid form, or in capsules or tablets. Since bath salts are man-made and are not regulated in the United States, the exact chemical makeup of each batch will be different. Even when the packaging looks the same, it is impossible for a consumer to know the exact contents because there are so many different variations of mixed chemicals used by manufacturers to produce bath salts. 

How Bath Salts Are Used

Teenagers who abuse bath salts will typically do so by mixing the drug with food or mixing it into a drink, by injecting it, or by snorting it. Some teens will administer bath salts rectally. They can also be smoked or inhaled through the use of a vaporizer. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse snorting or injecting are considered the most harmful methods of ingestion. 

How They Work

Bath salts work in the brain by elevating one’s dopamine levels similarly to that of cocaine. Bath salts, however, produce extremely potent results. In addition to affecting, one’s dopamine levels bath salts also work by raising one’s serotonin levels. This is also seen in teenagers who use MDMA, resulting in hallucinations. Because the exact ingredients are unknown and vary from batch to batch it is not uncommon for use to result in overdose and/ or poisoning.

Bath Salts Have Been Banned

In July 2012, the Synthetic Drug Abuse Prevention Act made it illegal to possess, use, or distribute many of the chemicals used to make bath salts. Chemicals including, mephedrone and MDPV (commonly used as ingredients in bath salts) are now labeled by the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) as Schedule I substances, which are defined as “drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” Though the law covers twenty-six chemicals, all of them ingredients in synthetic drugs, manufacturers are still finding ways to make derivative versions of bath salts that manage to skirt the legal boundaries. 

Signs and Symptoms

There are many signs and symptoms that a teen using bath salts could exhibit. Some examples include the following, provided by the National Institute on Drug Abuse:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Muscle tenseness
  • Muscle spasms
  • Aggression
  • Anxiety 
  • Violence
  • Delusions
  • High blood pressure
  • Insomnia
  • Loss of appetite
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion

With long-term abuse of bath salts come many possible permanent side effects, especially for the developing brain of a teenager. Bath salts can lead to dangerously erratic behavior, which can result in the development of psychoses and mood disorders. The possibility of overdose from the use of bath salts is high, and is present with every single use, which can lead to death. If there is concern that your teen may be abusing bath salts do not delay in pursuing professional guidance to ensure his or her safety. 

For Information and Support

Seeking help is never easy, but you are not alone! If you or someone you know needs mental health treatment, we strongly encourage you to reach out for help as quickly as possible. It is not uncommon for many mental health difficulties to impact a person for the long term. The earlier you seek support, the sooner you and your loved ones can return to happy, healthy, and fulfilling lives.

Our admissions team is available to answer any general questions regarding mental health issues, treatment, and/or specific questions about the program at Pacific Teen Treatment and how we might be able to help your family. We can be reached by phone 24/7 at 800-531-5769. You can also contact us via email at

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