The Rise of Synthetic Cathinones
Synthetic cathinones, commonly referred to as “bath salts, ” have quickly become a popular drug within the past two years. Sold online, in head shops, and at convenience stores, these substances are often marketed as bath salts and plant food, marked “not for human consumption.”1 These little packets include a mix of chemicals that have a structure similar to amphetamines, causing euphoria, elevated mood, and increased alertness.1 However, Poison Control calls related to ingestion of the drug have increased by over 20 times in the past three years.1
Typically, users take dosages between 3mg and 20mg, with effects lasting between three and four hours.1 Along with the wildly sought-after euphoria, there are a range of adverse effects that tag along. These include: hypertension, hyperthermia, seizures, tremors, paranoia, irritability, tachycardia, and even psychosis.1 Kidney damage and liver damage has been reported in repeat users.1
In fact, an investigation of 35 emergency department patients who used bath salts in Michigan from November 2010 to March 2011 showed that 91 percent had neurological damage, 77 percent had cardiovascular damage, and 49 percent had psychological damage.1 Multi-organ failure and death also occurred.1 One death was a result of bath salt intoxication and another was by suicide due to the psychological effects of the chemicals.1
Unfortunately, legal regulation of bath salts is difficult due to the fact that each compound must be banned individually.1 As the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) bans more chemicals in synthetic cathinones, different ones appear on the market.1 This leaves the DEA one step behind.
Treatment of synthetic cathinone intoxication is symptomatic.1 Typically, a benzodiazepine, such as lorazepam, is used to counteract the drug’s high.1 Psychotic symptoms necessitate antipsychotic medication and psychiatric hospitalization.1 Psychosis usually resolves itself within four days; however, there are reports of psychosis lasting for weeks.1 Patients should also be watched for suicidal ideations and behavior.1 Still, the popularity of bath salts continues to grow.
 Beaman, J., & Hayes, E. (2013, April 30). Synthetic Cathinones: Signs, Symptoms, and Treatment . Psychiatric Times. Retrieved September 24, 2013, from www.psychiatrictimes.com/addiction/synthetic-cathinones-signs-symptoms-and-treatment/page/0/1