Only around 1 in 100 high school seniors have tried getting high on bath salts, according to a new study of U.S teenagers, but a fifth of those who try the drug become frequent users.
Bath salts, a kind of drug also known as synthetic cathinones, have become more popular in recent years. These chemicals, manufactured in labs, act similarly to a stimulant found in the khat plant but are wholly synthetic, and there are now more than 70 varieties found in the U.S. Some are illegal at the federal level, but most are not because they are newly developed.
These substances made headlines in May 2012 after a man allegedly high on bath salts chewed on a homeless man’s face in Florida. Now they can be found around the country and are sometimes used as adulterants in substances like MDMA, increasing the risk of serious health problems.
Bath salts, depending on the variety, can elicit many different effects, but generally they act as strong simulants, perhaps causing euphoria, but also carrying the possibility of hallucinations, agitation and violent behavior.
Curious to see how many high school students were trying the drug, New York University researcher Joseph Palamar mined data collected by the National Institutes of Health on drug use habits amongst 8,600 teens nationwide.
His study, published in The American Journal on Addictions, found that only 1.1 percent of high school seniors had tried bath salts in the last year. However, nearly one-fifth of those who admitted to using them had taken the substance an alarming 40 times or more. The study said those who “reside with fewer than two parents, who earn less than $50 per week from sources other than a job, or who go out multiple nights per week for fun are at increased risk for use. These tend to be risk factors for use of other illicit drugs in this age group” as well, the study noted.
“Most ‘bath salt’ users have used alcohol or marijuana, and use of other drugs such as powder cocaine, LSD, crack and heroin was at least ten-times more prevalent among [them],” according to the study.
One-third of the users tried bath salts only once or twice, indicating that experimentation was common.
It’s hard to believe that many of these people would’ve tried bath salts if they’d heard about the things people do on the drug. As Newsweek reported in March, “people believed to have been on bath salts have reportedly dragged their teeth across a police car hood, taken a lighter to a child’s hands and wrists (allegedly to rid the body of demonic possession), eaten a pet dog, stabbed a goat to death, gone on a shooting spree and killed themselves.”