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You may remember the news stories from several years ago. People that were high on a compound known as “bath salts”, engaging in behaviors such as self-mutilation and “eating” the faces of others. If you were following the national media outlets, you might have been convinced that the “zombie apocalypse” had truly arrived. As it turns out, most of those people had no bath salts in their system, but it certainly brought the “designer drug” epidemic to the forefront of public awareness. It is important to take these news stories with a grain of salt, as naturally things can easily get blown out of proportion, but the fact remains that designer drugs are a significant public health concern, one that seems to be constantly one step ahead of the authorities.

So, what are “bath salts”?

The name “bath salts” is the street name that was given to a class of synthetic stimulant drugs known as “cathinones”. These drugs produce cocaine- and methamphetamine-like effects, but are much more potent than those compounds. This means that much smaller doses are required to produce the same “high” as traditional stimulants of abuse. At certain doses, these drugs can produce psychosis, violence, increased heart rate, hyperthermia, and can even be fatal (Baumann et al., 2014). These drugs were initially all composed of three primary compounds- 3,4-methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV), mephedrone, and methylone. Prior to 2011, you could walk into any number of gas stations or head shops around the United States and purchase these drugs under the guise of bath salts, with common street names such as “Ivory Wave”, “Purple Wave”, “Vanilla Sky”,”Blizzard”, or “Bliss”. However, the Poison Control Centers began reporting staggering increased in “bath salts”-related calls. While 2009 had no recorded bath salts incidents, in 2010 there were 302, and in the first five months of 2011 alone, there were 2,237 (NDIC, 2011). This dramatic rise in use created significant public concern, and in 2011, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) used its emergency scheduling authority to classify the three primary compounds (MDPV, methylone, and mephedrone) commonly found in bath salts as Schedule I drugs (DEA, 2011). This action became permanent in 2012. Since then, illegal drug manufacturers have learned to stay one step ahead of the DEA. By making slight chemical modifications to these original compounds, they have been able to continue production and distribution of these synthetic cathinone products, resulting in a massive amount of second-generation products. The latest of these is known as Flakka.

What is Flakka?

Flakka is the street name for α-PVP, a chemical cousin of MDPV. This drug is considerably cheaper than other synthetic compounds, and can cause severe psychosis and hallucinations. The DEA reports a spike in reported cases similar to that seen with the original bath salts compounds- from 0 cases in 2010, to 85 in 2012, and 670 in 2014. Although the DEA did designate Flakka as Schedule I in early 2014, we will likely continue to see these compounds being released with slight changes, as the illegal drug trade seems to know how to stay one step ahead of the DEA where these cathinone compounds are concerned. The problem is, taking these drugs is literally a roll of the dice. There are so many variations and sources of these compounds that a user really has no idea exactly what they are taking and how much of it is needed to achieve a high. This significantly increases the risk of overdose, severe health complications, and death.

If you or someone you know is experimenting with or addicted to bath salt compounds, there is an enormous gamble being taken- a true “Russian Roulette.” However, there is hope available. Contact the admissions professionals at Serenity Acres today to discuss your options for treatment.


  • Baumann, M. H., Solis, E., Watterson, L. R., Marusich, J. A., Fantegrossi, W. E., & Wiley, J. L. (2014). Baths salts, spice, and related designer drugs: the science behind the headlines. The Journal of Neuroscience, 34(46), 15150-15158.
  • Drug Enforcement Administration. (2011). Chemicals Used in “Bath Salts” Now Under Federal Control and Regulation [Press release]. Retrieved from
  • US Dept of Justice, National Drug Intelligence Ctr, & United States of America. (2011). Synthetic Cathinones (Bath Salts): An Emerging Domestic Threat.