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“Bath Salts:” A Designer Stimulant That Rebounds???

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“Bath Salts:” A Designer Stimulant That Rebounds???

When Pat first reported on the new “bath salt” epidemic, it didn’t really click.    Even her “bath salt” update had me scratching my head. 

Then the manager of our sober living found Ann (not her real name), a young resident, wandering around the front yard speaking to the bushes.  Her co-residents said she had ordered “bath salts” over the internet.  She seemed fine several days later, but in only a matter of weeks the manager told me she had been admitted to the UCLA’s Neuropsychiatric Institute where she reportedly remained for two weeks strapped to her bed.bath salts 2.jpg

A month ago I got a call from a Southern California college town.  Miles (not his real name)  — bright, articulate and charming — said he needed help, the type that an outpatient program could not provide.  He was ready to “do the work” in a safe, secure setting rather than tangle with the law and “lose everything.”

From the vast amounts of drugs Miles, 21, reported having taken since he was 15, he was one hard core addict.  He had managed 6 months of sobriety in 2010.  Then “all hell broke loose” and he was arrested for possession of Xanax, cocaine, and marijuana, as well as intent to sell marijuana  In jail he stayed high on suboxone which was mailed to him glued to the flap of the envelope (Pat wrote about this last December).

One day a friend introduced him to “bath salts,” a designer stimulant which mimics the high of cocaine and methamphetamine.  Note to Normies (non addicts):  These are not the lavender scented crystals on sale at your local drug store.  These are possibly the most dangerous drug on the market today, produced in clandestine labs, sold online or in smoke and head shops.  

“Bath Salts” are usually made from MDPV or methylenedioxypyrovalerone, a psychoactive drug, though newer derivatives are being made by illegal street chemists.   Dr. Zane Horowitz, MD, an emergency room physician and medical director of the Oregon Poison Center described for WebMD the side effects he has observed: “agitation, paranoia, hallucinations, chest pain, sucide…high blood pressure and increased pulse.”  He added:  There’s something more causing these other extreme effects.” newscaster announcing bath salt ban.jpg

Most often the label on “bath salts” attempts to skirt legality by stating the product is not for human consumption (which is not a deterrent to young adults who anyway smoke, snort or inject them). 

In September 2011 the Drug Enforcement Administration used emergency scheduling authority to temporarily control MDPV (along with Mephedrone and Methylone) by classifying it as a Schedule I Substance.

Schedule I status is reserved for those substances with such a high potential for abuse they cannot be used for treatment in the United States.  Until next September, and possibly forever, possession or sale of MPDV is illegal.. 

Last November California followed the lead of at least 28 states and banned “bath salts.” 

Nonetheless, there is still a single source in Miles’ college town – a smoke shop that also sells salvia (an herb with hallucinogenic properties) and spice (an herbal alternative to marijuana) .  Miles said the “bath salts” he inhaled are called “Bubbles” and come in a “ready to snort”  container with a twist off cap.  The powder itself “looks a lot like Splenda.” 

The “bath salt” containers are kept locked in a glass showcase.  The store’s only clerk has the key.  Miles said each container cost $35.00 cash and is labeled:  “Not for human consumption- does not contain MDPV.”  

(Dr. Charles Sophy, a favorite Malibu Beach Recovery Center psychiatrist warned:  “Consumers should not be fooled.  Bath Salt ingredients, no matter what disguise they may come in, still remain a potential substance for abuse.  The abuse potential and its aftermath can be very harmful.” )

Miles described the “bath salts” as rendering the “best” high ever.  10 times better than a meth, he said.  And unlike all the other drugs he has ever snorted/injected/smoked, it was the bath salts which took him down.  Each container kept Miles “loaded” for up to 8 hours.  By the time he called Malibu Beach Recovery Center he could no longer go more than an hour without bath salts.  It had become a $100/day habit that “had me by the throat.” 

For Miles the side effects included delusions, insomnia ( he reported having had no more than 6 hours in twelve days), shortness of breath, restless leg syndrome, anxiety, and  lack of appetite.   

“When I hugged him,” said his mom, “he had lost so much weight I could feel all the ribs, all the bones.”

Twenty four days after entering treatment Miles relapsed.  Somehow he had obtained Xanax. Relapse while in treatment is a very rare occurrence at Malibu Beach Recovery Center.  We immediately helped him transfer to a different treatment program.  Two days later his mom emailed:  “He sounds terrible to me.  This morning he woke up in excruciating pain in both hips and could not move.  He needed assistance to get out of bed….I am truly afraid we will lose him.”

The other treatment program then discharged him.  They reported cognitive memory issues and said he was out of control with drug seeking and had no concern for consequences. 

He was checked into a psych ward.   When his insurance ordered him stepped down to a lower level of care, Miles panicked and wanted to go back to the hospital.

I heard from Miles’ dad this morning.  He wrote:  “Unfortunately, the saga continues…” 

Two days earlier Miles had been rushed to the ER.

“The clinical team at his rehab was sure he OD’d on something as he was nodding out during the morning meeting,” wrote his Dad. “ Miles insisted he didn’t take anything more than the treatment center gave him.  He walked all the way from the hospital back to the treatment center in flip flops because he needed his meds.  His feet were black, he had a deep cut on his ankle, his foot and ankle were red and swollen and he was limping.  They wouldn’t let him on the premises and said they would have to call the cops if he caused a scene.  He paced back and forth across the street and called them and us, begging for a dose of his meds.   

“I was horrified when we picked him up.  He looked like a homeless man I barely recognized, not the handsome young guy with the big smile and bright eyes.  He was dirty, ragged and nodding out when talking to us, and all he had was the medication they prescribed.” 

Miles’ dad is inclined to believe that even if Miles was able to access some street drugs while in treatment, or was able to hoard enough of his prescribed medications to take alot at one time, the amounts available could not have triggered the extreme behavior Miles is exhibiting, all of which mimic the DEA’s description of the worst “bath salts” side effects:  impaired perception, reduced motor control, disorientation, extreme paranoia and violent episodes.

Which led me to call Dr. Kenneth Blum and ask him if bath salts have a rebound effect.

Here is what he said:  “There must be additional research done to determine whether after ingesting bath salts a severe neuopsychological rebound can result.    This abused substance may be  more dangerous than even crystal meth and all legal authorities must enforce laws against its sale in the entire United States of America.  Our professional and scientific community must declare “war” against its use to save our precious next generation from its profound neurotoxicity.”   


If any of our readers have experienced a rebound from “bath salts”, or know about someone who has, please post a comment.  Your information might help save Miles’ life, or the life of someone else.

Showing 2 comments
  • Dr Charles Parker

    Excellent piece, thanks so much for sharing the details on “bath salts” – which, thankfully at the moment, are not on our radar out here in VA.
    One thought does occur to me about Miles that we do see quite often, yet encouraged by different abuse contexts: malabsorption and malnutrition secondary to heavy drug use with subsequent neurotransmitter imbalances that feed the relapse, that jonesing compulsion. Having repeatedly measured urinary neurotransmitters in folks like Miles, I can report with certainty that every one, not most, – every one of these folks manifests significant neurotransmitter deficiencies.
    Often they’re seen by psychiatrists who have absolutely no awareness that they have *no serotonin available synaptically,* but repeatedly hit the patient with excessive doses of serotonin reuptake inhibitors, serotonin collectors, thereby making the patient even more toxic in the treatment process. If the PFC isn’t working, if judgement is out the window from any toxins [street or psychiatric], recovery is highly unlikely.
    Remember this point: if there are no serotonin chickens at the synaptic ranch, then serotonin chicken catchers will always come back empty handed – this is basic.
    No, I don’t pop over and cookie-cut the recovery process knowing about this likely serotonin deficiency, because just throwing 5HTP at the patient is simply not acceptable either, – as speculation and whimsy are still at play. Why not measure the specific neurotransmitter levels, find out the offending imbalance, and directly correct it? The new mind science is about the available technology for data acquisition – and the appropriate understanding of that data once in the office.
    This is an easy article on the measurement process:
    – And see this brief report on brain and immunity as contributory factors in treatment failure:
    I also appreciate the input of Dr Ken Blum and look forward to his next steps dealing with neurotoxicity.
    Well done,
    Many thanks,
    Dr Charles Parker |

  • Liz Winchell

    This is the most terrifying drug I have seen in 20 years of working in the field of addiction treatment. The recidivism rate appears higher than with other drugs. The potential for self harm is huge. I am so grateful that you posted this information. Thank you!

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