What Are Synthetic Cathinones (Bath Salts) and What Does Addiction to it Look Like?
Written By: Robert Castan | Edited By: Editorial Team | Last Updated: June 7, 2021
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There is help for this addiction out there. If someone has used bath salts, they know how easy it can be to become addicted to them. Getting the right kind of drug treatment is essential because this drug has very serious side effects.
This page gives information about synthetic cathinones. It discusses the history, side-effects and options for treatment.
What Are Synthetic Cathinones?
Synthetic cathinones are stimulants in a newer class of drugs that are being abused. Public health officials call these new psychoactive substances (NPS). These psychoactive substances have no medical use, they mimic the effects of controlled substances and are unregulated by any health agency. Many times, they are sold as a cheaper substitute for other stimulants like cocaine or amphetamines. They can also be added to Molly (Ecstasy) instead of MDMA.
These drugs, also called bath salts, have at least one human-made chemical related to cathinone, found in the khat plant. They are often packaged in ways that they look like bath salts, giving them their nickname. It can also be marketed as plant food, glass cleaner, or a number of other things, all labeled “not for human consumption”. This is done to help disguise and keep it from being detected by police or Drug Enforcement Administration officers. They are nothing like Epsom salts used for baths, which have no mind-altering ingredients.
Synthetic cathinones are typically swallowed, snorted, smoked or injected. These can be extremely addictive. Users have reported that these drugs can trigger intense, uncontrollable urges to use them again.
Because there are no known medical uses for Bath Salts, these drugs are completely illegal. Many people have come up with different names for this drug when buying and selling it on the street. Some of the street names include:
- Blue Silk
- Cloud Nine
- Ivory Wave
- Meow Meow
- Ocean Burst
- Pure Ivory
- Purple Wave
- Red Dove
- Snow Leopard
- Vanilla Sky
- White Dove
- White Knight
- White Lightning
While synthetic cathinones have a long history, they have gained in popularity in the 21st century.
- Peter Forskal, an eighteenth-century botanist, discovered the Catha Edulis, or khat, plant.
- The leaves of this shrub had stimulant effects and were chewed and brewed for tea in the Arabian Peninsula and in East Africa.
- The stimulant alkaloid in the leaves of the khat bush is cathinone. Cathinone has a similar chemical composition to ephedrine, cathine and other amphetamines. It was found to produce the same kind of effects as amphetamines including euphoria, alertness and hyperactivity, but with a lower potency.
- The first synthetic cathinone, Methcathinone, was synthesized in the first half of the 20th century. Reports of abuse of this began in the early 1990s.
- In 1929 and 1967, France described Mephedrone and MDPV, but their abuse was not reported until early in the 21st century. At this point, there were claims that these were legal alternatives to MDMA.
- Mephedrone is the first synthetic cathinone detected by European authorities in late 2007.
- By 2010, 28 European countries detected and seized mephedrone. It was usually found combined with other synthetic cathinones.
- MDMA, mCPP, lactose and caffeine were found to be associated with bath salts.
- In 2004, methylone was reported as a liquid for the first time and being sold as a vanilla-scented room deodorizer. Methylone was also sold on the internet and in headshops in plastic tubes with 5 ml of liquid called “Explosion”.
- Japan first detected MDPV in 2006, Germany in 2007, Finland in 2008 and the UK and Poland in 2010, after mephedrone was banned.
- Bath salts started becoming popular in the US in the 1990s.
- Two of the main drugs in bath salts were made illegal in 2012 in the US. This did not stop the production of them. It only made makers and sellers become more creative.
- Effects on the mind
- Cravings for the drug that cannot be controlled
- A false sense of euphoria that quickly develops into paranoia
- Severe agitation
- Hallucinations and/or delusions
- Suicidal thoughts/suicide
- Violent behavior
- Effects on the body
- Rash on the skin
- Mephedrone stink- a condition in which a person smells like one of the main drugs in bath salts, mephedrone
- Feeling of skin-crawling
- Excessive sweating
- High fever
- Loss of appetite
- Sexual dysfunction
- Nosebleeds and burning nose sensations
- Pain in the back of the mouth
- Ringing or buzzing in the ears
- Grinding of the teeth
- Cramping or tense muscles
- Numbness or tingling
- Blurred vision
- Chest pains and heart attack
- Increased pressure inside the skull
- Increased blood pressure and heart rate
- Damage to the kidneys/kidney failure
- Liver damage
- Skeletal muscle tissue breakdown
- Brain swelling/brain death
What Is The Difference Between Synthetic Cathinone Abuse and Addiction?
Sometimes people will hear the words abuse and addiction and may believe they mean the same thing. However, these two words are different and should not be used interchangeably.
Drug abuse or misuse Is when a drug or medication is used improperly or in an unhealthy manor. Any use in which the drug was not initially intended can be considered abuse of the drug. The khat plant was originally used for chewing on or brewing tea. Also, using a drug repeatedly for pleasure, to relieve stress and/or escape reality.
Drug addiction is when a person is unable to control their impulse to use a drug even when there are negative consequences that come from using it. There are changes in the person’s behavior, and brain function, particularly their natural inhibition and reward centers. As they use more of the drug, they are able to tolerate more.
There is still a lot to learn about this class of drugs. However, because it is a stimulant, the signs of addiction are similar to that class of drugs. Those can include:
- A tolerance to the drug, leading to a need for more of the drug to reach the same effect.
- Feeling the need to use the drug regularly. This could be daily or multiple times a day.
- Health problems.
- Failure to meet responsibilities at school, home or work.
- Strong urges for the drug that causes all other thoughts to be blocked.
- Maintaining a supply of the drug.
- Spending money that cannot be afforded on the drug.
- Continuing the drug use in spite of it causing problems in the person’s life.
- Doing things the person would not normally do, such as stealing.
- Risky behaviors while under the influence of the drug.
- Spending an extreme amount of time getting, using or recovering from the drug.
- Failing when trying to stop the drug.
- Withdrawal symptoms if the drug is stopped suddenly. These symptoms can include:
Facts About Synthetic Cathinones
Even though there has been a ban placed on synthetic drugs in the US, they are still a dangerous threat to our nation. Because they are being sold and marketed in ways that are making them undetectable by authorities, it can be difficult to obtain a lot of statistics from the usage of bath salts until it is too late.
The US Department of Justice released a Situation Report about bath salts. The following were reported:
- At the time of this report, there were no field test kits, drug-detecting canines or routine urine drug screens for synthetic cathinones. This posed a challenge for law enforcement when they tried to find the drug or prosecute the makers and sellers of it.
- Synthetic Cathinones can include a number of different drugs. Some of these are:
- MDPV (3,4-methylenedioxypyrovalerone)
- Mephedrone (4-methylmethcathinone, 4-MMC, BK-PMMA, PMMC)
- N-methylcathinone (methcathinone or cat)
- 4-fluoromethcathinone (flephedrone or 4-FMC)
- 3-Fluoromethcathinone (3-FMC)
- Methylone (3,4-methylenedioxy-N-methylcathinone, MDMC, bk-MDMA, or M1)
- Naphyrone (napthylpyrovalerone, NRG-1)
- Butylone (bk-MBDB, beta-keto-N-methylbenzodioxolylpropylamine)
- Mephedrone is commonly referred to as 4-MMC, Bubbles, Drone, M-Cat, Meow Meow, and Meph. It usually has very little or no odor. It has been made in different forms:
- A fine, white, off+white or almost yellow powder
- Crystal form
- A tablet
- Effects are felt 15-45 minutes after ingestion and last 2-5 hours. When snorted, effects are felt after 30 minutes and last 2-3 hours. With IV injection, effects last 10-30 minutes.
- MDVP is a variant of pyrovalerone. It is has been made in various forms:
- Gray-colored with a granular consistency
- White powder (hydrochloride salt)
- When ingesting, effects can be felt 15-30 minutes later and last 2-7 hours. When snorting, effects can be felt within 5-20 minutes and last 2-3.5 hours.
- Bupropion (Zyban, Wellbutrin) is a prescription medication. It is the only cathinone derivative that has medical indications in the US and Europe. It is a ring-substituted cathinone and is prescribed to treat depression and as a smoking cessation aid
- Mephedrone, methylone and MDPV were all banned in the US by President Obama under the Synthetic Drug Abuse Prevention Act of 2012.
Recovering from Bath Salt Addiction
As we have stated, addiction to bath salts can be very dangerous. Anyone who has an addiction to these drugs should seek immediate professional recovery help. Continuing with the drug only makes its psychological effects worse which could lead eventually lead to suicide. It is recommended that a person with an addiction find a rehab program to help lower their risk of relapsing.
There are different options for rehab. The goal of rehab is to treat the physical and psychological aspects of addiction. Doing this will treat any co-occurring disorder. This is an underlying mental health issue that may be causing or continuing the addiction. It is important to treat these so the person does not relapse back into drug abuse or addiction.
The following are the types of drug rehab programs for people to choose from:
- Inpatient treatment– staying in a treatment center for approximately 30 days
- Traditional outpatient rehab– getting treatment while living at home
- Intensive outpatient programs– similar to outpatient but more meetings and appointments for longer periods of time
- Partial hospitalization programs– treatment is in the hospital setting with qualified medical personnel present for any help needed
- Long-term rehab– longer than inpatient. Patients stay for as long as needed. Can be a period of months.
Treatment Offered by SpringBoard Recovery for Synthetic Cathinones Addiction
At SpringBoard Recovery, we have worked with people with all kinds of addictions. We know how serious and deadly an addiction to bath salts can be. We have programs that can address the needs of our individual clients based on their addiction.
While drug detox is not required for stimulants, it might be suggested. If it is, that would be the first step in a rehab program. The person will be medically monitored while their body gets rid of the toxins. They will also receive therapy and start recovery during this time, which can last for 7-10 days.
If detox is not recommended, they will begin treatment at our facility. We have an exceptional outpatient addiction treatment program. During their program, they will receive different forms of therapy. This could include a combination of individual and group counseling. Treatment is designed around their needs with the goal of recovery as the driving force.
Another service offered by SpringBoard Recovery are sober living services. These are rehab homes available for those who come to Arizona from out of state for rehab. It is also for those who live in a situation not conducive to recovery.
Learn More About Synthetic Cathinones Addiction and Recovery – Get Help Today
Synthetic cathinones cause dopamine levels in the brain to rise faster than other stimulants like cocaine or amphetamines and 10 times more potent. This causes increased intense euphoria. This can lead to severe psychotic behavior, hallucinations and “excited delirium”.
This group of drugs is very dangerous. It is also very difficult for law enforcement to track down. There are many components to it and it is sold as other products. Oftentimes, the components replace other components in other drugs and buyers are unaware.
Do you have questions about synthetic cathinones addiction? Do you want to get the right treatment? If so, we are here to help. We can help you begin taking steps to get your addiction recovery started right away. Please contact us today.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse: https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/synthetic-cathinones-bath-salts
- Department of Justice: https://www.dea.gov/sites/default/files/2020-06/Bath%20Salts-2020.pdf
- United States Drug Enforcement Administration: https://www.dea.gov/factsheets/bath-salts
- US National Library of Medicine: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4462036/#!po=1.31579
- Foundation for a Drug-Free World: https://www.drugfreeworld.org/drugfacts/synthetic/bath-salts-history.html
- Foundation for a Drug-Free World: https://www.drugfreeworld.org/drugfacts/synthetic/bath-salts-effects.html
- National Institute on Drug Abuse: https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/media-guide/science-drug-use-addiction-basics
- National Institute on Drug Abuse: https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/prescription-stimulants
- U.S. Department of Justice: https://www.justice.gov/archive/ndic/pubs44/44571/44571p.pdf
- National Library of Medicine: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10106610/
- National Institute on Drug Abuse: https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/principles-drug-addiction-treatment-research-based-guide-third-edition/drug-addiction-treatment-in-united-states/types-treatment-programs
- National Institute on Drug Abuse: https://teens.drugabuse.gov/sites/default/files/drugfacts_bathsalts.pdf