Bath salts--what's in a name?

By Kirsten Anke, Public Health Nurse, U.S. Army Public Health CommandMarch 4, 2014

Bath salts poster
(Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (March 3, 2014) -- Bath salts, not the Epsom salts for bath water, but the synthetic stimulant street drug -- have many names including "Bloom," "Blue Silk," "Cloud Nine," "Hurricane Charlie," "Ivory Wave," "Lunar Wave," "Scarface," "Vanilla Sky," "White Lightning," "Zoom" and others.

What is in a name? The catchy names for this dangerous product create an illusion that using it will lead to relaxation or an exhilarating high. But the reality is that the use of bath salts comes with unpredictable reactions and dangerous consequences.

What is in the drug? Bath salts are unregulated street drugs. The crystals or powder may include combinations of one or more man-made chemicals related to drugs like amphetamines, cocaine and Ecstasy. Chemical mixtures are created to avoid being identified as an illegal substance. The types and amounts of chemicals vary in each packet or jar.

What is in it for you? Nothing good results from swallowing, inhaling or injecting the white, yellow or brown crystals or powder that are sold in packages labeled "not for human consumption." Because you do not know what is in this dangerous product, you do not know how it will affect you.

What happens? Bath salts are toxic chemicals, not helpful medicines. They increase levels of brain chemicals (serotonin, dopamine or norepinephrine), which may result in feelings of euphoria or increased alertness. However, the short-lived intoxication comes with potentially life-threatening mental/emotional, behavioral and physical reactions.

Your mind: Mental/emotional reactions may include anger, agitation, paranoia, hallucinations, panic attacks, insomnia, and psychotic or combative behavior. Paranoid behaviors and delusions may last for days after the high is over. Impulsive and violent behavior may result in hurting someone else or self-inflicted injury, which may lead to death.

Your body: The physical effects to your body can be dangerous and deadly. Bath salts may cause a fast heart rate, increase in body temperature, high blood pressure, chest pain, dehydration, breakdown of skeletal muscle tissue, seizures, kidney failure and death.

Your future: Bath salts may be addictive. The body may develop a tolerance to and dependence on the chemicals. Once you start to use the drugs, you may crave them, and find it difficult to stop using them.

What is the law? The Synthetic Drug Abuse Prevention Act of 2012 was signed into law to ban the possession, use or distribution of chemicals used to make man-made drugs like bath salts.

What is the Army's policy? In accordance with Army Directive 2012-14, Prohibited Substances - Controlled Substance Analogues, "Army personnel are prohibited from using, possessing, manufacturing, selling, distributing, importing into or exporting from the United States any controlled substance analogue," such as bath salts. Violations of the policy may result in punishment.

What's the bottom line? Bath salts, the so-called designer street drugs, have many sexy names, but no matter what you call them, they are illicit drugs that can destroy your mind and body.

For help: If you or someone you know needs help with drug addiction, please call: 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Related Links:

U.S. Army Public Health Command Health News

Army Substance Abuse Program - Synthetic Stimulant Use

National Institute on Drug Abuse

Bath salts poster