Synthetic Drugs

These man-made substances have varying chemical compositions and can produce a variety of side effects. The most common synthetic drugs are bath salts and spice (synthetic marijuana).

How does this affect me?

According to the 2014 Monitoring the Future Survey:

  • 3 percent of 8th graders said they have tried synthetic marijuana in the last year.
  • Almost 6 percent of 12th graders said they have tried synthetic marijuana in the last year.

Bath Salts

“Bath salts” is the name given to a variety of drugs that have one or more synthetic chemicals related to cathinone. Cathinone is an amphetamine-like stimulant found naturally in the khat plant. Chemically, bath salts are similar to other amphetamines.


Spice is a mix of mullein leaves (shredded plant material) and manmade chemicals with mind-altering effects. Some of the chemicals found in spice are similar to the ones in marijuana, but much stronger.


Synthetic drugs prompt a large release of dopamine — the brain’s “feel-good” neutrotransmitter. Bath salts raise the levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin, which is thought to be responsible for causing hallucinations.

Short-Term Effects

Short-term effects of bath salts can include:

  • Increased alertness and awareness
  • Elevated heart rate and blood pressure
  • Increased respiration
  • Feelings of euphoria
  • Paranoia
  • Hallucinations
  • Violent outbursts
  • Panic attacks
  • Addiction

Short term effects of spice use can include:

  • Altered perception
  • Extreme anxiety
  • Paranoia
  • Hallucinations
  • Increased heart rate
  • Vomiting
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Addiction

Other Effects

Additional effects of bath salts can include:

  • Dehydration
  • Detachment of muscle tissue from the bone
  • Kidney failure
  • Stroke
  • Heart attack
  • Death

Additional effects of Spice can include:

  • Dehydration
  • Heart Attack
  • Death


What are some other names for spice and bath salts?

There are a variety of brand names associated with both products. Other names for spice can include: K2, fake weed, Bliss, Black Mamba, Bombay Blue, Genie, Zohai, Yucatan Fire, Skunk, and Moon Rocks. Other names for bath salts can include: Blizzard, Blue Silk, Charge+, Ivory Snow, Ivory Wave, Ocean Burst, Pure Ivory, Purple Wave, Snow Leopard, Stardust, Vanilla Sky, White Dove, White Knight and White Lightning.

Do bath salts cause cannibalism?

After the now famous bath salts case from Miami, many individuals believe that the use of bath salts will cause cannibalism. While nothing in the drug itself would give a person desires to eat another human being, bath salts can cause violent outbursts, hallucinations and extreme paranoia. Those things combined can result in some pretty scary behaviors.

Why can bath salts and spice kill you?

No package of bath salts and spice contain the same chemical composition. The people who manufacture these products are constantly trying to stay ahead of the law and regularly change the chemicals used in each batch. Additionally, there are no standards by which these drugs are processed, meaning the contents and the potency varies greatly. This means that a person who has previously used bath salts or spice could come into contact with a drug of much greater potency than to which they are accustomed. This combined with the tolerance and physical dependence of either drugs can easily result in an overdose.

What is Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder (HPPD) and how does it relate to bath salts and spice?

Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder is a disorder characterized by a continual presence of sensory disturbances, most commonly visual, that are similar to those generated by the use of hallucinogenic substances. This means that, even after a person has stopped using a drug, they can still experience hallucinations. HPPD can occur in both bath salts and spice users.

How to Get Help

If you, or someone you know, has a problem with bath salts or spice, talk to a trusted adult. Seek out local substance abuse treatment centers in your area for further help. A physician or a counselor should be able to assist you in finding treatment centers.

  • You can also seek out local self-help groups such as Narcotics Anonymous (NA). To find out more information about NA’s services, visit
  • Call Centerstone at 1-888-291-4357 (HELP) to schedule an appointment with a therapist.
  • If you feel like you need immediate help, please call 1-800-681-7444 for 24-hour Crisis Services.