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Drug lexicon

Bath salts


The term "bath salt" includes a number of substances that are known as synthetic cathinones are designated. Cathinone occurs naturally in the leaves of the khat plant (Catha edulis) in front. Synthetic cathinones are thus derivatives (descendants) of the natural substance. A number of synthetic cathinones have so far been found in "bath salt" products, including:

  • 3-fluoromethcathinone (3-FMC)
  • 4-fluoromethcathinone (4-FMC, flephedron)
  • Butylon
  • Dimethylcathinone
  • Ethcathinone
  • Ethylon
  • Mephedrone (M-Cat, Meph, Meow Meow)
  • Methcathinone
  • Methedron
  • Methylone (top cat)
  • Methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV)
  • Pyrovalerone


The term “bath salt” is not a technical term, but was probably chosen by the manufacturers to disguise the actual purpose: consumption. The products sold on the Internet are also labeled as "plant food", "cleaners" or "research chemicals". With the aim of circumventing legal regulations, the products are usually labeled with the note “not suitable for human consumption”.

Besides synthetic cannabinoids and phenethylamines, cathinones are among the prohibited substance groups that fall under the New Psychoactive Substances Act (NpSG). The law came into force on November 26, 2016 and prohibits the trade, placing on the market, manufacture, import, export and transit, acquisition, possession and administration of new psychoactive substances.

The first cathinones were synthesized as early as the 1920s. A few of these substances have been studied for their medical applicability. Bupropion, a derivative of cathinone, is currently the only substance of its kind that is approved as a drug in the US and Europe. Bupropion can be prescribed to treat depression and to make it easier to quit smoking.

Consumption and Effect

The cathinones contained in "bath salts" have so far been relatively little researched scientifically. It is known that cathinones have a stimulating effect on the organism. Some of the substances like MDPV affect dopamine metabolism in a similar way to amphetamine. Other cathinones like methylone have more of an effect on the serotonin system. Its effect is comparable to that of MDMA.

“Bath salts” are usually sold as white or brown powder or in capsules. The substances are either sniffed, swallowed or injected. The effects reported by users are similar to that of amphetamine or ecstasy. Synthetic cathinones produce euphoria, feelings of increased energy as well as increased libido and talkativeness.

Risks of Consumption

So far, there is little scientific knowledge about the effects of these substances. In an online survey in Germany, the majority of those surveyed stated that consumers of legal high products also had acute side effects and after-effects, including palpitations, circulatory problems, nausea and anxiety. A third of them stopped consuming these products again because of the adverse effects.

Information about acute risks from the emergency clinics and poison centers is available from the USA. As a result, the dangerous consequences include:

  • Cardiovascular problems
  • High rise in body temperature
  • Kidney failure
  • Seizures
  • Muscle spasms, muscle damage
  • aggression
  • Hallucinations and delusions
  • Severe paranoia and panic attacks

Use can be fatal, as case studies show. One of the most common single symptoms is one increased aggressiveness, often accompanied by a massive psychosis with delusions. Under the influence of “bath salts”, consumers would often be prone to violent and unpredictable behavior. In one case study, a man shot his wife and then himself after police stopped him for driving too fast. Toxicological studies were able to detect MDPV and lidocaine, which is also used as an additive in cocaine, in the man. In general, self-harming behavior under the influence of "bath salts" is the second most common cause of death, after acute poisoning.

It is unclear how widespread the consumption of “bath salts” is and what importance must be attached to the previous case reports in which those affected in a state of psychosis have endangered themselves and / or others. However, it shows the potential risk associated with the consumption of these substances.

Another problem in this context is the fact that most synthetic cathinones are not recognized by standard drug screenings. This can have fatal consequences. Because in an emergency, the doctors treating you may not be able to identify the real cause. This can also lead to incorrect treatment. For example, drugs used to treat psychosis can lower the threshold for seizures. Cathinones are associated with an increased risk of seizures anyway.


  • EMCDDA Synthetic Cathinones
  • German, C. L., Fleckenstein, A. E. & Hanson, G. R. (2013). Bath salts and synthetic cathinones: An emerging designer drug phenomenon. Life Sciences,
  • Gershman, J. A. & Fass, A. D. (2012). Synthetic Cathinones (‘Bath Salts‘). Legal and Health Care Challenges. Pharmacy and Therapeutics, 37 (10), 571-572.
  • Eurekalert (4.6.2013) Not really ´bath salts´ - paper provides update on ´designer stimulants´.
  • Jerry, J., Collins, G. & Streem, D. (2012). Synthetic legal intoxicating drugs: The emerging "incense" and "bath salt" phenomenon. Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine, 79 (4), 258-264.
  • Miotto, K., Striebel, J., Cho, A. K. & Wang, C. (2013). Clinical and pharmacological aspects of bath salt use: A review of the literature and case reports. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 132 (1-2), 1-12.
  • New Psychoactive Substances Act
  • Press release Federal Government (26.11.2016)
  • Prosser, J. & Nelson, L. (2012). The Toxicology of Bath Salts: A Review of Synthetic Cathinones. J Med Toxicol, 8, 33-42.
  • Rosenbaum, C. D., Carreiro, S. P. & Babu, K. M. (2012). Here Today, Gone Tomorrow… and Back Again? A Review of Herbal Marijuana Alternatives (K2, Spice), Synthetic Cathinones (Bath Salts), Kratom, Salvia divinorum, Methoxetamine, and Piperazines. J Med Toxicol, 8; 15-32.
  • Werse, B. & Morgenstern, C. (2011). Online survey on the subject of “Legal Highs”. Final report. Goethe University Frankfurt.

Information as of June 2017

All entries in the drug lexicon for the letter "B"