As a highly addictive recreational drug that varies from brand to brand, bath salts pose a risk that is largely determined by the degree and frequency with which the chemical compounds such as mephedrone (a popular and problematic drug in the UK), pyrovalerone and methylenedioxyprovalerone (MPDV) have been altered. This group of drugs, also referred to as synthetic cathinones, are largely used for their psychoactive effects and originate from the khat plant growing in parts of Africa and the Middle East.
The National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that bath salts—also referred to as “new psychoactive substances” (NPS)—is synthetically designed to copy the effects of controlled substances.
Because the drug is extremely addictive like other stimulants such as meth and cocaine, the negative effects of bath salts usage and dependence can cause physical and mental withdrawal symptoms. Like any substance abuse, the degree of withdrawal symptoms correlates with the duration of bath salt abuse.
Withdrawing from bath salts, like other drugs of abuse, is a very difficult and unpleasant process. The body must relearn what it means to return to its baseline state when toxic chemicals are no longer affecting the central nervous system functions that control reward and movement (dopamine and norepinephrine).
Each dependent individual will experience his/her own version of negative effects, including the inclination towards violent behavior.
Moderate symptoms include:
Severe symptoms include:
Because there is quite a bit of diversity among the different chemicals that are labeled as “bath salts,” the actual symptoms and timeline that an individual experience may vary greatly. Therefore, there is no universal timeline for bath salts withdrawal. What we do know, however, is that withdrawal symptoms will vary depending on several factors including:
The withdrawal process for bath salts typically begins within 12-24 hours after someone has taken their last dose. Primary symptoms include mood swings, jitteriness, fatigue, and cravings. Individuals may become suicidal, moody, and depressed when levels of these neurotransmitters of dopamine and norepinephrine become depleted. Typically, these symptoms peak within 48-72 hours before slowly subsiding.
5-7 days following the last dose the drug, most symptoms are typically resolved. However, an individual could continue to experience some lingering issues such as mood swings and cravings.
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Because of the wide range of chemical compounds present in the drug, coming off of bath salts without trained support poses an even greater risk. As the initial step in the formal treatment process, NCBI is necessary including bath salts. The abuse of bath salts has resulted in wild and violent behavior that is not only life-threatening to the user but also to people around them.
When the toxins are being removed during the detox period of bath salts withdrawal, neurotransmitters such as dopamine and norepinephrine are being replenished and the brain and body no longer need to rely on cathinones as stimulants.
Because this stage is highly unpredictable with an increased risk of suicide, it is even more medically necessary to detox in the presence of a medical support staff at a detoxification center. Trying to detox on one’s own can be uncomfortable at best and life-threatening at worst, which is why medications and treatments are administered according to a physician’s medical recommendations. After a long period of drug dependency, addicts are no longer in control of their thoughts. Their brains have been completely rewired. They have no way of knowing what might trigger them if they come off the drug cold turkey.
Because treatment is so complex for bath salts, it’s imperative that bath salts abusers complete a full continuum of treatment starting with a medical detox program. Only in this way, is it fully possible to prevent relapse. This will jumpstart the treatment protocol for substance use disorder that includes the following offered by AreteRecovery:
National Institute on Drug Abuse (2016) from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/synthetic-cathinones-bath-salts
National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Prescription Opioids.” NIDA, 7 June 2018 from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/prescription-opioids
National Institute on Drug Abuse. “FDA Approves First Medication to Reduce Opioid Withdrawal Symptoms.” NIDA, 16 May 2018 from https://www.drugabuse.gov/news-events/news-releases/2018/05/fda-approves-first-medication-to-reduce-opioid-withdrawal-symptoms
National Institute on Drug Abuse. “8: Medical Detoxification.” NIDA from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/teaching-addiction-science/brain-actions-cocaine-opioids-marijuana