Nationwide drug intervention and awareness programs have helped more parents recognize the common signs of drug use in their teen. Most can identify the smell of marijuana and alcohol and are alert to unknown prescription pills they might find in their child’s room or backpack.

Unfortunately, more young people today are experimenting with dangerous and illegal substances that are completely off their parents’ radars. Designer drugs, made in clandestine labs, are new substances created to simulate the effects of more commonly known illegal drugs.

According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, poison centers in the U.S. first received reports about serious, life-threatening reactions to bath salts in 2010, when the center responded to about 3,200 calls related to these designer drugs. In 2011, that number jumped to more than 13,000 calls – and 60 percent of the cases involved patients 25 and younger.

First, parents must understand that their teens are not misusing bath salts that dissolve in the tub to soften or perfume bathwater. These so-called “bath salts” are actually a new, synthetic stimulant sold under deceptively harmless sounding names such as Monkey Dust, Purple Rain, White Rush and Vanilla Sky. Until recently, these drugs were legally marketed as a novelty item in convenience stores, in “head shops” and on the Internet.

Although most often called “bath salts,” the stimulants can also be labeled “plant food” or “insect repellant” and always include a prominent warning: “Not for human consumption.” Despite this label, teens inject, snort, smoke or swallow bath salts to achieve a powerful – and unpredictable – high.

Like other designer drugs, bath salts are high-risk, because their contents are unknown and inconsistent. Samples of bath salts seized from different regions vary greatly even when they have the same label and have been developed by the same producers. Similarly, users’ reactions to the substance can also vary greatly from one experience to another, even when they think they are procuring and using the same product.

Bath salts can produce short-term side effects such as increased heart rate, agitation, anxiety and delusions. More serious side effects such as severe paranoia, aggression, hallucinations and seizures have also been reported. In addition, the increased heart rate and blood pressure experienced by bath salts users may even lead to heart attack or stroke. Because they create an increased level of agitation and aggression, people who use bath salts also become a safety risk to others.

Parents should know the signs of bath salts use, which include:

  • Sweating
  • Thirst
  • Jerky body movements
  • Grinding of teeth
  • Sudden violent behavior.

Bath salts can cause severe agitation lasting up to five days. The high often lasts for hours, but the psychosis can last for hours, days or even longer. If your child appears to be experiencing a violent episode as a result of using bath salts, do not confront her alone. Call 911, and get help for your teen – and your family.

For more information about bath salts abuse, contact the National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information at 1-800-729-6686, or visit Compass Rose Academy can also help – please visit us at  today to learn more.