Bath salts have been in the media in recent years, with reports that those who use bath salts exhibiting reckless and “zombie-like” behavior. Though there is no evidence that backs this up, bath salts can cause horrible side effects like hallucinations, paranoia, bizarre behavior, and sometimes even death.
The main components of bath salts are comprised of the khat plant, which is an East African shrub that makes cathinones.
Essentially, the cathinones act much like amphetamines, which are stimulants that act on the central nervous system, causing an increase in energy. In addition, bath salts increase dopamine and serotonin levels, causing a feeling of euphoria and can cause hallucinations.
Synthetic bath salts have hit the streets, which means that the variations are stronger and have much more dangerous side effects. Those that use bath salts regularly are at high risk of developing severe or fatal side effects like seizures, respiratory distress, brain swelling, psychosis, or death.
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Bath salts are very addictive, so for those who are trying to stop using bath salts, withdrawal symptoms may be felt that vary in severity. Often, it may be necessary for the person to be tapered off the drug with medical monitoring.
The bath salts withdrawal timeline can vary from person to person because some of the ingredients in bath salts differ. Generally, the timeline is similar to other stimulants.
The first 12 to 24 hours after the last usage, withdrawal symptoms may begin. Feeling restless, having cravings for the drug, fatigue, and mood swings are common.
Bath salts cause dopamine to soar, so when the brain stops getting that artificial boost, it can leave the person feeling a “crash”. By day two, the person is usually feeling pretty uncomfortable, with some symptoms peaking during this time.
Generally, after one week, symptoms will start decreasing in intensity, though some may still experience lingering cravings, fatigue, and mood swings.
Keep in mind that there are certain factors that can affect the intensity or duration of withdrawal symptoms. In other words, the withdrawal will not necessarily be the same for everyone, but can differ depending on:
Repetitive use of bath salts affects the brain much like cocaine does, but much more intense. Along with the brain, bath salts can change the chemical composition of the body.
Over time, due to the addictive nature of the drugs, the body gets used to the chemicals. If the body doesn’t get them, it goes into withdrawal mode, which can be very uncomfortable and dangerous.
Should someone detox from bath salts? Absolutely. Coming off the drug and allowing the body to rid itself of the harmful chemicals associated with bath salts is necessary to break the addiction or dependence. However, one should never quit bath salts or any drug cold turkey, as there are both psychological and physiological dangers involved. Having professional support to assist in contending with withdrawal symptoms will be valuable in terms of making a full recovery.
Before someone can continue with a treatment program, a detox process should be completed to rid the body of the highly toxic ingredients in bath salts. Detox is the first step in the recovery process and can occur in either an outpatient or residential treatment program with medical intervention. The reality is that physicians and mental health professionals can provide comprehensive care that is necessary for getting beyond bath salts withdrawal symptoms.
A residential treatment center allows an individual to reside at the center while getting treatment for addiction. Medication may be given to help decrease uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms, and the person will be monitored around-the-clock. Once the detox phase of recovery is completed, patients will continue recovery with things like counseling, life skills building, group counseling, and perhaps support group sessions. Residential treatment is usually around 30 days, but extensions can be made depending on the needs of the patient.
An outpatient center allows an individual to reside at home while still receiving treatment. A partial hospitalization program (PHP) allows an individual to stay at the treatment center all day long five to seven days per week and then return home. An intensive outpatient program (IOP) allows the individual to visit the treatment center for a certain number of sessions per week. The person could begin with five sessions a week and then decrease sessions as they make progress. Sessions will help patients learn valuable life skills, relapse prevention skills, and help them with ongoing recovery plans.
Both residential and outpatient treatment are valuable for recovering from bath salt addiction, though heavy users are recommended to attend an inpatient treatment center for the 24/7 monitoring by substance abuse professionals, due to the severity of withdrawal symptoms. Outpatient treatment tends to work well for those with a mild dependence on bath salts.
Once treatment is completed at either the residential or outpatient center, ongoing recovery efforts will prove helpful. This could be attending a support group, such as a 12-step program or sober housing.
Due to the highly toxic nature of bath salts to the body, medical professionals are seeing a rise in emergency room visits by people who are on bath salts. There’s no doubt there are great dangers in anyone ingesting bath salts.
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Medscape. (2018, August 15) What are the features of stimulant withdrawal syndrome? McKeown, N., DO. Retrieved from https://www.medscape.com/answers/819502-79142/what-are-the-features-of-stimulant-withdrawal-syndrome
Ohio Mental Health Addiction Services. (n,d). Overview and Treatment of Bath Salts Intoxication and Opioid Withdrawal. John, M. Retrieved from https://mha.ohio.gov/portals/0/assets/initiatives/public-private/updatedpresentationaddictionconference.pdf
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