The amount of time bath salts stay in your system varies greatly, depending on the specific formulation of the drug.
Since the composition of bath salts varies so much, it is tough to give a general timeline. On average, expect to test positive for the drug for a few days if taking a urine-based drug test.
Bath Salts: A New Drug That is Tough to Detect
Synthetic cathinones, most commonly in the form of bath salts, became a major public health crisis in 2010. After action from the federal government in 2011 and 2012, many of the dangerous stimulants referred to as bath salts were banned from import into the United States.
Combined with negative press coverage of intense psychotic experiences and rapid overdose deaths involving these stimulant drugs, fewer people abuse bath salts and related chemicals. Abuse does still occur, however, so it is important to know how these drugs work in the body.
Typically, bath salts are crushed and snorted, smoked, or mixed with water or alcohol and injected. They are rarely eaten or mixed into a liquid to drink, but this has happened on some occasions.
Effects from bath salts typically begin within 15 minutes, with peak intoxication occurring in about one hour and the high lasting anywhere from three to six hours.
Dosing these drugs is almost impossible. The amount of cathinone in any given package varies since there is no regulation, and the chemical itself is unpredictable.
Effects from abusing bath salts have been known to last for days in some instances.
One report found that bath salts effects begin at doses as low as 3 to 5 mg, but the average dose consumed is 5 to 20 mg. Many packages contain 500 mg, which can cause an immediate, fatal overdose.
Like other stimulants, including cocaine and amphetamines, there is a hard crash after the drug processes out of the system.
Drug Testing for Bath Salts Still being Studied
Law enforcement, hospitals, and substance abuse treatment programs may all test someone who is believed to be intoxicated on bath salts or who is getting treatment for acute harm caused by bath salts.
The drug’s half-life is about three to four hours, although this window can be as wide as three to 24 hours.
Typical drug tests involve blood, urine, or hair samples. Different agencies use different types of testing, but the results are unfortunately as unpredictable as bath salts themselves.
This test is considered the most invasive type of test, so it is rarely performed in drug treatment programs or by law enforcement. It is most likely to be part of hospitalization, although law enforcement officers sometimes use blood testing as a backup to urine testing.
Blood test results are not immediate. The turnaround time is about eight days, so this form of testing is most useful as backup proof. Hospitals can get results from blood tests much faster than law enforcement can.
The blood test for bath salts covers many designer drugs, so results may find different metabolites, depending on how much of the cathinone was consumed. MDVP is the most common chemical associated with synthetic cathinones.
Drug kits that test for methamphetamine in saliva also work, in some instances, to detect metabolites of bath salts. However, the level of reaction is not consistent enough to recommend this approach to law enforcement or medical practitioners.
This is the most common form of a drug test for both law enforcement and medical treatment programs since it is less invasive and has a fast turnaround time.
Metabolites for bath salts can be found in urine samples for an unpredictable amount of time — typically a few days but sometimes a day or less. This depends on the individual’s metabolism, the specific chemical formula of the bath salts, and how much of the drug was consumed.
Drug treatment programs will routinely test those in the program with urine samples to ensure that no one is relapsing back into substance abuse. Detection of metabolites through urine samples is reliable and noninvasive.
For most drugs, including bath salts, hair testing is not a reliable source of immediate information. Hair grows slowly, but when substances are abused, the chemicals will appear in the strand, like growth rings in a tree.
Drugs can remain detectable in hair for up to three months. Hair samples can determine if a person has abused a drug like synthetic cathinones and for how long.
Detox and Rehabilitation for Bath Salts Abuse
Most reports of bath salts abuse result in acute intoxication, overdose, and hospitalization. It is rare for someone to abuse the substance long enough to develop an addiction to it because dosing is so unpredictable.
However, there are some cases in which bath salts have caused addiction and physical dependence, which leads to withdrawal symptoms when the person tries to quit. Bath salts are so intoxicating that getting medical help to detox safely from them is very important.
There are some drugs that have medication-assisted treatment (MAT) available, which eases withdrawal symptoms and slowly tapers the body off dependence on the substance. Alcohol, tobacco, and opioids are three examples of drugs that have MAT available to overcome physical dependence through tapering.
For now, there is no MAT available to help the body during bath salts withdrawal. Medical oversight is important during detox since there may be instances of psychotic symptoms like hallucinations or delusions. There could also be underlying health problems like heart or kidney damage.
Detoxing from bath salts usually takes between three and seven days — again, depending on how much of the drug was abused, the individual’s metabolism, how long it was abused, and the chemical formula of the bath salts.
Once detox is complete, the main form of treatment is therapy to prevent future drug abuse.