What are the difficulties in detecting
bath salts, their effects and how do we
test for them?
Dr. Joanne Darragh
What are Bath Salts?
“Bath Salts,” the newest drug to hit the
Web/streets, is the latest addition to a
growing list of items that users can obtain
to get high. The drug is a synthetic powder
which has been developed over the past
ten years but grown rapidly in popularity.
Due to its synthetic structure, the drug can
be easily produced with dealers or users
producing the drug in their own home or
drug houses. Bath salts are packaged in a
powder form in small plastic or foil packag-
es of 200 to 500 milligrams. They are sold
for roughly $20 per package. Most packages
are labeled “not for human consumption.”
The bath salts powder appears white, off-
white, or slightly yellow-colored. Dealers
sell the drug under various names such as “Ivory Wave,” “Purple Wave,” “Red Dove,” “Blue Silk,” “Zoom,”
“Bloom,” “Cloud Nine,” “Ocean Snow,” “Lunar Wave,” “Vanilla Sky,” “White Lightning,” “Scarface,”
and “Hurricane Charlie.” As these drugs are made in makeshift labs, there is no consistency with the
chemicals being used in their production. Most often bath salts contain the chemicals mephedrone,
methylone, or 3,4-methylenedioxypyrovalerone (known simply as MDPV), but current estimates suggest
there may be over 100 different chemicals being marketed as bath salts. With users not knowing exactly
what is in these drugs adds to their appeal. Drug dealers producing these in house are now trying to
refine these drugs to give certain effects, causing them to use more drugs which they do not know the
Bath salts are typically taken orally, inhaled, or injected, with the worst outcomes being associated with
snorting or needle injection.
Effects may occur with doses as low as 3 to 5 milligrams, but average doses range from 5 to 20 milligrams.
There is a great risk for overdose because packages may contain up to 500 milligrams. If ingested orally,
absorption is rapid with a peak at 1.5 hours with the effect lasting 3 to 4 hours. Like drugs such as Cocaine
there is a hard “crash” when the drug wears off.
Users of bath salts have reported experiencing symptoms including headache, heart palpitations, nausea,
and cold fingers. Hallucinations, paranoia, and panic attacks have also been reported. News media have
reported associations with violent behavior, heart attack, kidney and liver failure, an increased tolerance
for pain, dehydration, and breakdown of skeletal muscle tissue. In several cases of suicide in the U.S. and
UK, drugs which are commonly used in Bath Salts have been found in the toxicology reports.