People in the US have been buying bath salts, the synthetic salts of the internet that are increasingly popular among teenagers and have caused a public health crisis, for a long time.
Now, as they are entering their teens, they are getting into drugs more easily and more often, and there is little incentive to stop, said David Fick, director of the University of California, San Diego School of Law’s drug policy clinic.
The latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that the number of Americans age 15 to 24 taking bath salts rose from 2.5 million in 2016 to 3.5 in 2017, according to data released Friday.
About 17 million people age 25 and older have tried bath salts.
“It’s a much more readily available drug than people think,” Fick said.
A study in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence found that the average price of bath salts on the street increased from $50 to $80, and the price of the drug’s synthetic versions jumped from $40 to $120 in 2017.
In 2018, a study in British medical journal The Lancet found that people in the United States were buying up bath salts at a rate of over 300 per day, a rate that rose to more than 2 million in 2020.
A review in the medical journal Lancet Psychiatry reported that the use of bath salt was growing across the US.
A survey of bath-salt users by the Center for Disease and Prevention found that about 40 percent of people ages 12 to 19 used the drug in 2017 and about 35 percent of them reported taking it daily.
About 1 in 10 people age 20 to 34 did not know how they got their hands on bath salt.
Many bath salts have become available for $100 or less.
The CDC report also said that more than a third of bath users reported using the drug for pain relief, with a second third saying they used it for relaxation and another third for social or recreational purposes.
Bath salts can be mixed with other drugs to create an even more potent drug.
Some people can also take a bath and feel a tingling sensation, according a 2016 study by researchers at Johns Hopkins University and the University at Buffalo.
A woman who used bath salts for the first time in January said she was not “totally convinced” that the effects were hallucinatory.
But she said that she felt like she was having a “jazz night” when she felt “a little dizzy, kind of like I was floating.”
A woman said she tried to stop using bath salts in June but had difficulty because her body “was like a sponge.”
She was diagnosed with depression, bipolar disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, the CDC report said.
Bath-sash users may also have higher risk for addiction.
One in five people in California, New York and New Jersey had used bath-salts in the past year, the report said, and many were still using them.
In New York, where the number rose to 6.2 percent of the population in 2017 from 4.4 percent in 2017 , the state’s Department of Health reported that people with drug or alcohol abuse problems were more likely to use bath salts than those without.
A majority of bath soap users in New York reported abusing other drugs, and 41 percent had used amphetamines and 23 percent used prescription painkillers.
A similar percentage of bath lovers in New Jersey reported using heroin, cocaine and marijuana, and 16 percent reported abusing prescription opiates.
“People that have an addiction to bath salts use them to numb pain,” said Melissa O’Brien, who is the director of policy and policy analysis for the Drug Policy Alliance, an advocacy group.
She said bath salts may not be addictive, but people who have an opioid addiction may find them to be.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has not yet released a list of people who received bath salts last year, but experts said they include people with HIV, opioid addiction, obesity and alcohol and drug abuse problems.
Some experts worry that the rise of bath sales could have dangerous consequences for teenagers.
“If they start to have a little bit of an issue with their body and they start taking bath salt for weight loss, it could lead to problems with their brain,” Fatt said.