The true extent of long-term use of bath salts is not known due to the relative newness of these synthetic drugs. We do know, however, that these substances may result in permanent consequences. In particular, they can affect and change a person’s brain.
Bath salts is a classification of synthetic drug that mimics the effects of methamphetamine, amphetamines, and cocaine. They are similar to drugs like Molly, which is MDMA or ecstasy. Bath salts were developed as a synthetic version of cathinone, which comes naturally from the khat plant.
Bath salts appear as a crystal-like powder with a similar look to the bath salts used in a bathtub, but they are dissimilar chemically. The most common substances found in bath salts include methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV), mephedrone, pyrovalerone, and methylone, but there are over 100 chemicals they may be found in a single package.
They have a stimulant effect. Those who use them report the following effects:
- Increase in energy
- Increase in sex drive
- Increase in sociability
Long-Term Effects of Bath Salts
Addiction is considered the most harmful effect of synthetic cathinones, and addiction has been found to change the composition of the brain. In addition, it is possible for a person who uses bath salts to develop heart problems, kidney problems, a breakdown of skeletal muscle tissue, and psychosis.
Although research is still limited regarding bath salts’ long-term effects, experts believe they have similar effects to drugs like amphetamines, ecstasy, and cocaine, as noted by the National Institutes on Drug Abuse.
How Do Bath Salts Affect the Brain?
Bath salts work by crossing the blood-brain barrier and causing changes in neurochemical functions, which alter a person’s perception, behaviors, thoughts, and mood. Because of their stimulant effect, they cause insomnia, which is difficult to counteract. Oftentimes, even when bath salts users also use sedatives, they are unable to sleep. Chronic sleep deprivation affects the brain greatly by causing issues like psychosis and depression.
A person using bath salts cannot be sure what is actually in the drug since their production is not regulated and they are not accurately labeled. This means any number of chemicals that alter the brain could be in them, and in some cases, these alterations could be permanent.
Louis De Felice, a researcher in Florida, determined that mephedrone tends to work in the same way that methamphetamine does in the brain, by causing a surge in dopamine. However, MDPV works like cocaine, blocking the reuptake of dopamine back into the cells. Depending on the chemicals found in a particular batch of bath salts, both of these effects may occur simultaneously.
The effects of mephedrone on the brain appear to be the same as using MDPV and methamphetamine at the same time. Not to mention, most of the time, the drug is more than 10 times stronger than cocaine. The person tends to feel the effects of the drug the next day since it causes dopamine to flow and then blocks it from leaving. The fact that a person repeatedly stimulates these reactions to occur is why the drug has the potential to cause psychosis and other psychological issues. A small study conducted on 40 young adults who regularly used mephedrone appeared to show higher rates of psychosis, cognitive impairment, and depression in users than in those who had never used mephedrone.