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Bath Salts: A New Epidemic of Drug Use

Oct 26, 2012
By Malcolm Thaler
Bath Salts

No, I’m not talking about those lovely lavender-scented crystals you keep by the tub. Rather, these latest designer-drugs-of-the-day are potent synthetic concoctions of a natural chemical found in the leaves of the khat plant, indigenous to Arabia and North Yemen. Bath salts produce the combined effects of amphetamines and cocaine and are far more potent than either. As a result, bath salts are more addictive and much more dangerous. In the last year alone, the use of these drugs prompted over 6,000 calls to poison control centers.

About Bath Salts

Bath salts are sold at head shops, gasoline stations, and online under various colorful epithets such as Vanilla Sky, Blue Silk, Purple Wave, Zoom, Cloud Nine, and Hurricane Charlie. They’re usually found in small packets marked “Not Fit for Human Consumption,” and are often disguised as plant fertilizer, toilet bowl cleaner, and other household products. They’re called “bath salts” for the simple reason that they resemble ordinary bath crystals.

These drugs can be swallowed, smoked, snorted, or injected intravenously, but no matter how a person takes them, they are extremely dangerous. The risk of overdose is great, because the packets usually contain several times the amount of drug necessary to get high. In addition, the amount of drug in each packet can vary considerably.

Side Effects from Bath Salts

Side effects from bath salts can be terrifying and very dangerous. They include:

  • Neurologic effects. Users may experience muscle spasms, involuntary movements of the arms and legs, and seizures.
  • Cardiac effects. Side effects range from a racing heartbeat to a heart attack and sudden death.
  • Psychologic effects. These may be the most frightening side effects of all, including violent–often murderous–behavior, nightmares, paranoia, and hallucinations.
  • Acute kidney and liver failure.

Whatever name they are sold under, bath salts are unsafe, and the only sensible advice to anyone who wishes to try them is, “Don’t!” Emergency rooms and intensive care units have already seen far too many patients who have suffered ill effects from these drugs.

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Malcolm Thaler

Malcolm enjoys being on the front lines of patient care, managing diagnostic and therapeutic challenges with a compassionate, integrative approach that stresses close doctor-patient collaboration. He is the author and chief editor of several best-selling medical textbooks and online resources, and has extensive expertise in managing a wide range of issues including the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and sports injuries. Malcolm graduated magna cum laude from Amherst College, received his MD from Duke University, and completed his residency in Internal Medicine at Harvard's New England Deaconess Hospital and Temple University Hospital. He joined One Medical from his national award-winning Internal Medicine practice in Pennsylvania and was an attending physician at The Bryn Mawr Hospital since 1986. He is certified through the American Board of Internal Medicine. Malcolm is a One Medical Group provider and sees patients in our New York offices.

The One Medical blog is published by One Medical, a national, modern primary care practice pairing 24/7 virtual care services with inviting and convenient in-person care at over 100 locations across the U.S. One Medical is on a mission to transform health care for all through a human-centered, technology-powered approach to caring for people at every stage of life.

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