Teen Bath Salts Abuse Treatment

As a parent or teen, you may have heard the term “bath salts” previously – either in the news or from your friends and peers. The term refers to collection of precursor chemical substances known as cathinones that are ingested orally or insufflated to produce a stimulant high.

The name bath salts is simply an allegory to their appearance; small, off-white to white crystals that can be crushed or dissolved in liquid. However, the word itself is more of an umbrella term covering MDPV, mephedrone, pyrovalerone, and several other chemical substances sourced from the khat plant.

Until recently, bath salts were masked as bath products in order to make them appear legal, creating an easily-accessible grey market supply. After initial government-led research into the dangers of these drugs, including potentially dangerous or even lethal side effects like cardiac arrest or overdose, the government declared all bath salt analogues illegal.

It is vital to be aware of the dangers associated with using bath salts. These substances are not regulated, making it virtually impossible for teens to know exactly what they’re taking. The risk of overdose, psychosis, or delusion is extremely high. Teen bath salts abuse treatment helps teens find their way back to safety and wellness.

What Does Teen Bath Salts Abuse Look Like?

  • The effects of bath salt intoxication can vary widely, mostly because bath salts may contain a long list of ingredients, each with its own side effect profile. Thus, how dangerous or risky the drug is when ingested varies batch-to-batch, too. By far, the most dangerous mixtures are those that contain the drug mephedrone, a stimulant similar to cocaine.
  • Most bath salt chemicals and ingredients carry an extremely high risk for overdose and addiction. As with stimulants like cocaine or methamphetamine, once the user starts, they will begin to experience cravings and feel driven to take more.
  • Research into MPVD, one of the most common bath salt ingredients, revealed that it affected change in the same areas of the brain as cocaine – but the effects were nearly 10 times as potent. This is true both for the high and cardiovascular side effects.
  • The low, uncontrolled quality and potency of most clandestine bath salts formulas makes them exceptionally risky for teens to use. Dangers are present with even one experimental use, with risks rising sharply after each additional session.

Signs of Teen Bath Salts Abuse

Pain in or around the chest

Pain in or around the chest

Intense panic and anxiety

Intense panic and anxiety

High heart rates and/or rhythm issues

High heart rates and/or rhythm issues

Paranoia and hallucinations

Paranoia and hallucinations

Extreme dehydration despite fluid intake

Extreme dehydration despite fluid intake

What Causes Bath Salts Abuse?

Peer Pressure – The most common reason teens abuse bath salts is peer pressure. Friends and people within extended social circles may share the idea that taking bath salts is fun, cool, or an interesting way to pass time, especially at parties. Everyone wants to fit in and feel well-liked; teens are no exception. If their friends are doing it, they’re much more likely to engage, too – often to excess.

What research tells us is that some teens seem to be more susceptible to peer pressure than others. Struggling with self-esteem issues or self-image may raise the risk for bending to peer pressure, as can a history of bullying or “not fitting in.” We also know that teens with a genetic tie to addictive behavior (such as an alcoholic parent) are much more likely to become addicted, even after just one use.

Stress and Depression – Drug use and abuse is often a response to Depression and other untreated or sub-treated mental health disorders. This is true for marijuana, alcohol, cocaine, club drugs, and yes, bath salts, too.

The Drug Itself – Synthetic drugs (sometimes referred to as designer drugs or research chemicals) are quite literally designed to create a specific high. They are much more potent than drugs like marijuana or alcohol, making them even more addictive.

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Teen Bath Salts Abuse Treatment | Paradigm San Francisco


of all teens reported abusing bath salts in grade 12 in 2015.


of all 12th grade students abuse drugs at least occasionally.


is the most common age to abuse stimulant drugs.

How Can I Help with Teen Bath Salts Abuse?

Educate Yourself – Addiction is an incredibly complex topic, and every addict experiences it in a slightly different way. However, there is much information available to help you better understand how it affects the teenage brain, how it starts, and how recovery can be achieved. It may be helpful to think of addiction not as a behavioral issue, but rather as a chronic brain disease best treated with teen bath salts abuse treatment.

Be Your Teen’s Best Recovery Ally – As a parent, the best thing you can do for your teen is be a good recovery ally. Help your teen find support groups and resources in the community to help them stay sober long-term. Treatment and detox within a residential facility is really just the first initial step; from there, teens need to stay on the path of recovery and work their programs for life. Your ability to support that process, or to aid them in reaching out other resources like sober living homes and therapy, is of critical importance.

Seek Therapy (Individual and Family) – Parents play a critical role in teen bath salts abuse treatment and recovery, but addiction very often has deep roots in everything from home life to early childhood experiences. Both you and your teen can benefit from individual and/or family therapy. In therapy, you will learn how to handle addiction and drug-seeking behaviors and how to best be an ally to your teen when they are struggling. Your teen will learn how to better cope with their emotions, their feelings, and any trauma or stressors that triggered their need for teen bath salts abuse treatment in the first place.

What Types of Teen Bath Salts Abuse Treatment Are Available?

Teen bath salts abuse treatment is complex; however, it is possible to recover. The earlier and faster you seek treatment, the better the chance your teen has of achieving full and long-term sobriety. Treating bath salts abuse works best when same protocols used for other stimulant drugs, such as cocaine or Adderall, are applied. However, every teen is unique, and every teen experiences addiction in a slightly different way; treatment must be customized to meet the teen’s individual needs, too.

It isn’t always easy to get teens to engage with the treatment process, especially at first. For that reason, initial efforts often focus on helping the teen recognize they have a problem so that they can accept help without feeling ashamed.

Recovery often begins with inpatient treatment. In residential programs, teens receive medical and emotional support during the critical first few days and weeks, when withdrawal symptoms make staying sober especially challenging. Care staff help teens manage rising emotions, cravings, and physical withdrawal symptoms in a healthy manner. Teens are often diagnosed with comorbid contributing mental health disorders, such as Depression or Anxiety, within this initial treatment period.

Withdrawal Aid

Stimulant drugs do not have as severe a withdrawal profile as other drugs, like opiates or benzodiazepines. They can still cause uncomfortable symptoms like exhaustion, fatigue, physical pain, and intense moods swings. In early inpatient treatment, care teams help teens address and cope with these symptoms without turning to drugs again. Symptoms may not be life-threatening, but that doesn’t mean you should try to cope with them alone at home.

Talk Therapy

One of the most important tenets of teen bath salts abuse treatment is therapy. Therapists empower teens to remain sober by helping them address what led to the addiction and how to better cope with stressors. Once the root cause is identified, they provide guidance, skills, and resources to give teens an alternative for self-soothing or coping when times get rough. The main goal is always to help the teen make connections between what triggers their emotions, what causes them to feel stressed or out-of-control, and how that impacts behavior.

Stress Management

Stress management is a critical part of any addiction treatment path, including teen bath salts abuse treatment. The ability to tolerate stress, and to know how to handle it, without turning to drugs is what keeps teens sober and well for life. Teens learn basic stress management skills, including interpersonal strategies for better communication, assertiveness, and emotional self-regulation. Through group and family therapy sessions, they practice these new skills and begin to address contributing family dynamics that may have led to or contributed to their addiction – including their own behavior. This allows the teen to take personal responsibility for their actions while also learning how to face their problems without becoming self-destructive, ashamed, or avoidant.

Teen Bath Salts Abuse Treatment at Paradigm San Francisco

At Paradigm San Francisco, we know that treating teens is really just the beginning. For full and long-term sobriety, we must also work together with teens, their families, and their friends to create a healthy foundation they can return to after graduation. This process starts while teens are still in residential treatment and continues long after teens graduate from the program for as long as is required.
Paradigm’s residential center is drug-free, alcohol-free, and fully focused on sober living and overall wellness. Teens are encouraged to explore who they are, interact with their peers, and engage in activities. Staff provides guidance and structure to help teens learn how to have fun, find themselves, and achieve peace in a healthy, constructive manner.

Access to Nature

Our San Francisco center is nestled into the hills in San Rafael, backed by the beautiful Harry Barbier Memorial Park. Just down the street lies the stunning San Rafael Bay and the San Pedro Mountain Open Space Preserve. Our extensive property is filled with the same gorgeous landscape as these special zones, giving teens the opportunity to set aside stressors and spend some time getting back to nature.
Fresh air, beautiful blue sky, and the chance to explore – both the great outdoors and their personalities – is critical to the healing process. Paradigm structures games, activities, and simple opportunities for free time spent outside to help teens break free from devices, electronics, and stressors like social media so they can focus on what matters most. Just being present in nature often has a soothing, therapeutic effect for teens who spend time at Paradigm; this can directly benefit mood regulation, sleep patterns, mental health, and physical wellness, especially after months or years of drug abuse.

Comprehensive Treatment

Every teen is unique, and that means our job is to treat their bath salts abuse or addiction uniquely, too. That’s why every treatment path is tailored to the needs of the person instead of being a simple cookie-cutter copy of what usually works for everyone else. While many of our processes and protocols stem from research and hard science, we always apply them in a way that respects the teen’s personal experiences, past traumas, struggles, or personal mental and physical health issues.

Treatment at Paradigm San Francisco is holistic, comprehensive, and structured to address the whole person – physical, mental, emotional, and environmental. In order to affect change, we have to help teens help themselves while also keeping them safe from further harm. We achieve this through education, emotional support, therapy, and integration.

“Of any place that my parents sent me to, this is by far the best of the best. I was instantly welcomed and treated with respect. The counselors listened to me, helped me identify what the real problem was and why I was having trouble. The staff was in complete control and never let any situation escalate with any of the other kids here. Even keeping in touch with my parents was not seen as a problem. They were more than happy to keep my parents informed of my progress and I even was able to see them. This center was such a better experience than anywhere else I had been. I have been clean and sober now for almost three months, and was taught the skills I needed to learn in order to maintain after my treatment was over. “

– Carl D.

Frequently Asked Questions About Teen Bath Salts Abuse

Are bath salts an illegal substance?

This is a difficult question to answer because the term “bath salts” can refer to many different drugs. The two most common, mephedrone and MDPV, are illegal and have been illegal since July of 2012. Other ingredients may still be technically legal, but that does not mean they are safe to use or recommended for use.
Unfortunately, bath salts were mostly legal until just a few short years ago. Their legal status caused them to quickly gain popularity among teens, who could often purchase them from local head shops and sometimes even gas stations. After being named illegal in 2012, clandestine producers quickly worked to start making analogues – drugs similar in effect and appearance to MDPV and mephedrone with a slightly different chemical format. Because these substances are technically new drugs, and haven’t yet been named illegal, they may temporarily be considered legal to use or buy. However, these untested substances are often extremely unpredictable and dangerous in effect.

Why are they called bath salts?

The chemical used in bath salts was originally used in actual bath salts or plant food formulas; these were often sold at local hardware stores or head shops. Common names used for the chemicals included incense, jewelry cleaner, Purple Wave, and White Lightning. Media coverage claiming violent attacks after the use of bath salts, including the Miami cannibal attack, may have contributed to the use of the term bath salts. Studies show that many of the chemicals used within bath salts can cause delusions and/or psychosis.

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