Hair sampling by NYU discovers unintended use of bath salts

Hair sampling by NYU discovers unintended use of bath salts

Ecstasy – also known as molly or MDMA – is a synthetic, psychoactive drug which acts in the brain like a stimulant that presents a high abuse and addiction liability. It is most often mixed with other psychoactive substances, including bath salts that are often found to mimic the effects of traditional illegal drugs. Bath salts, which are known to be more addictive than methamphetamine, can drive the young abusers to aggressive behavior.

A study titled “Detection of ‘Bath Salts’ and Other Novel Psychoactive Substances in Hair Samples of Ecstasy/MDMA/’Molly’ Users,” published in the Drug and Alcohol Dependence in February 2016, throws light on the possibility whether ecstasy users are unconsciously using bath salts or other novel psychoactive drugs to get a high.

“Given the sharp rise in poisonings and recent deaths at dance festivals related to ecstasy use, research was needed to examine whether nightclub/festival attendees who use ecstasy or Molly have been unintentionally or unknowingly using ‘bath salts’,” said Joseph J. Palamar, Ph.D., M.P.H., an affiliate of the Center for Drug Use and HIV Research (CDUHR) and assistant professor of Population Health at New York University’s Langone Medical Center (NYULMC). “Little is known about these new drugs and some may be more dangerous than MDMA.”

The study findings

Dr. Palamar, along with his colleagues, surveyed young adults during the July-September quarter in 2015 to know about their use of ecstasy and other drugs. In the survey, the participants were also asked about their addiction pertaining to ecstasy, or any other bath salts or novel drugs.

Taking the study forward, the researchers analyzed hair samples of 48 participants who reportedly used ecstasy in some point of their life. Surprisingly, half of the participants tested positive for MDMA, while the others tested positive for bath salts and/or other novel psychoactive substances. “Among those who reported no use of ‘bath salts’ or unknown powders or pills, four out of ten tested positive for ‘bath salts’ and/or other novel drugs,” says Dr. Palamar. “One sample also tested positive for alpha-PVP – the strong stimulant known as ‘Flakka’ that has made headlines in the last year.”

“As Molly is becoming a much riskier substance, I really hope that those who decide to use educate themselves about what they’re doing. While it is safest to avoid use, test kits are available online for those who decide to use, and want to ensure that they’re taking real MDMA and not a new synthetic stimulant such as Flakka,” Dr. Palamar concludes.

Understanding rapid detox

For decades, detox therapy has been a mainstay of drug abuse treatment. Methadone maintenance programs, in which patients are administered methadone, another opiate, as a substitute for the drug of dependence, along with a proper counseling, can help patients stay on the road to recovery. Many studies have demonstrated the safety and efficacy of rapid detox programs that take place in an inpatient rehab center with the help of adequate medical intervention.

The process initiates after the patient is admitted to a hospital where he or she can be thoroughly monitored in a private setting. The patient is given anesthesia by a trained doctor so that he or she can keep calm through the detoxification process and the painful withdrawal symptoms. Subsequently, the patient is administered a high dose of naltrexone to enable complete and total reversal of opiates within few hours.

On the other hand, some addicts have been found to take medicines for decades as they tend to fall back to illicit drug use after the maintenance therapy is stopped, while some others are recommended to taper off the therapy over months to years. A therapist needs to understand an addict’s complete history of drug abuse before starting any treatment, as most people tend to relapse even after achieving long-term abstinence.

It is not easy to fight the vicious cycle of addiction, recovery and relapse and getting back to the square one. If you or someone you love is dependent on drugs and displays increasing risk of developing other health-related issues, get in touch with the Rapid Detox Helpline at 866-403-5591 before it grows into an unmanageable problem.