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Bath Salts



Gerald F. O’Malley

, DO, Grand Strand Regional Medical Center;

Rika O’Malley

, MD, Grand Strand Medical Center

Reviewed/Revised Dec 2022

"Bath salts," a slang term used to describe a group of stimulant drugs that contain chemicals called cathinones, are chemically distinct from the bath salts they resemble. (Traditional bath salts used for bathing are usually a combination of sodium chloride, magnesium chloride, sodium bicarbonate, glycerin, and fragrances.)

Cathinones are amphetamine Amphetamines Amphetamines are stimulant drugs that are used to treat certain medical conditions but are also subject to abuse. Amphetamines increase alertness, enhance physical performance, and produce euphoria... read more -like stimulants derived from the plant Catha edulis (khat). The khat plant is a shrub grown in East Africa and on the Arabian peninsula. For centuries, people there have chewed the leaves for their mild stimulant effect. In those regions, chewing khat is often a social activity, similar to coffee drinking in other societies.

Recently, khat use has spread to other countries, and much stronger, man-made (synthetic) cathinones (marketed as "bath salts" to circumvent laws regarding controlled substances) have become drugs of abuse. Bath salts can be inhaled, smoked, and sometimes injected. These products, which are frequently labeled "not for human consumption," are not used for bathing.

Symptoms of Bath Salts Toxicity


Diagnosis of Bath Salt Toxicity

  • A doctor's evaluation

  • Blood and urine tests

Because bath salts are not detected with routine urine or blood testing, doctors usually base the diagnosis on symptoms in people known to have used the drug. Doctors typically order the following specific tests for anyone showing signs of severe acute bath salt intoxication to check for other problems caused by using bath salts:

Treatment of Bath Salt Toxicity

  • Observation and monitoring until the person is sober

  • IV sedatives

  • IV fluids

Typical treatments, which include IV sedatives and fluids and supportive care, are usually adequate. People with dangerously high body temperature (hyperthermia Serotonin Syndrome Serotonin syndrome is a potentially life-threatening drug reaction that tends to cause high body temperature, muscle spasms, and anxiety or delirium. Serotonin is a chemical that transmits impulses... read more ), persistently high heart rate or agitation, and blood tests that suggest possible kidney problems should be hospitalized and monitored for muscle breakdown and heart and kidney damage.

More Information

The following English-language resources may be useful. Please note that THE MANUAL is not responsible for the content of these resources.

  • National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA): Cathinone-specific information from the federal agency that supports scientific research into drug use and its consequences and supplies information about commonly used drugs, research priorities and progress, clinical resources, and grant and funding opportunities.

  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA): US Department of Health agency that leads public health efforts to improve behavioral health and provides resources, including treatment locators, toll-free helplines, practitioner training tools, statistics, and publications on a variety of substance-related topics.

Drugs Mentioned In This Article

Generic Name Select Brand Names
4-Way Saline, Adsorbonac, Altamist, Ayr Allergy & Sinus, Ayr Baby Saline, Ayr Saline Nasal, BD Posiflush Normal Saline, BD Posiflush Sterile Field Normal Saline, BD Posiflush SureScrub Normal Saline, Blairex Broncho Saline, Breathe Free Saline, Deep Sea , Entsol, HyperSal, Hyper-Sal, Hypertears, Little Remedies for Noses, Little Remedies Stuffy Nose, Monoject Sodium Chloride, Muro 128, NebuSal , Ocean, Ocean Complete, Ocean For Kids, Pediamist, PULMOSAL, Rhinaris, Rhinaris Lubricating, Saljet , Saljet Rinse, SaltAire, Sea Soft, Trichotine, Wound Wash, XYNASE, ZARBEE'S Soothing Saline Nasal Mist
Alka-Seltzer Heartburn Relief, Baros, Neut
Colace Glycerin, Fleet, Fleet Pedia-Lax, HydroGel, Introl , Lubrin, Orajel Dry Mouth, Osmoglyn, Sani-Supp
Adzenys, Adzenys XR, Dyanavel XR, Evekeo
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