A family of designer drugs, known by their street name as “bath salts,” contain substituted cathinones, which produce an effect similar to amphetamine or cocaine. The white crystals resemble legal bathing products like epsom salts, and are called bath salts and are often labeled as “not for human consumption” in an attempt to avoid prohibition.
The number of calls to poison centers concerning bath salts rose to 6,138 in 2011 from 304 in 2010, according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers. More than 1,000 calls had been made in 2012 by June.
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, and news media have reported associations with violent behavior, heart attack, kidney failure, liver failure, suicide, and an increased tolerance for pain.
Little is known about how many people use bath salts. In the UK, mephedrone is the fourth most commonly used drug among nightclub goers after cannabis, ecstasy and cocaine. Based on reports to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, use of bath salts in the US is thought to have increased significantly between 2010 and 2011. The increase in use is thought to be a result of their widespread availability and sensationalist media coverage.