Are Bath Salts Addictive?

Over the past few months there have been numerous questions around the issue of bath salts. A new study published by the Behavioral Brain Research Journal answers some of those questions – particularly, are bath salts addictive?

The study revealed that bath salts can be as addictive as cocaine. Scientists tested the drug’s impact on the behavior of mice through a method called “intracranial self-stimulation” (ICSS). This method has been used frequently to test the behaviors surrounding reward in the brain known as reward circuitry or the reward system. When the reward circuit is activated it triggers the release of dopamine, the neurotransmitter that gives one a pleasurable feeling. Addictive drugs stimulate this same response, but to a much greater degree. The reward is much stronger and therefore the behavior to get that reward becomes more pronounced. This is linked to addiction because over time the brain craves the reward associated with an activity, even if the activity – such as drug abuse – makes one’s life unmanageable.

The ICSS is used on mice by training them to run on a wheel in order to be rewarded by stimulating electrodes implanted in their brains. According to Dr. C.J. Malanga of the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, “If you let them, an animal will work to deliver self-stimulation to the exclusion of everything else—it won’t eat, it won’t sleep.”

Scientists have found this is particularly true when the reward is cocaine, because it increases mice’s sensitivity to reward stimulation. The study in the Behavioral Brain Research Journal revealed that the mice’s sensitivity to reward stimulation was just as strong with bath salts as it was with cocaine. This suggests that bath salts can be very addictive and serves to explain why thousands of young adults and teens continue to abuse bath salts despite the gruesome accounts of suicides, violent attacks, murders and arrests.

The good news is that massive efforts to crackdown on bath salts are already underway. A nation-wide ban on bath salts was put into effect on July 9th and just this week 91 arrests were made across 90 cities resulting in the confiscation of 167,000 packets of bath salts and material to make 392,000 more.

If you or a loved one is struggling with synthetic drug abuse, Harmony Foundation’s addiction treatment programs in Colorado can help. 

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