What are K2 & Bath Salts?

Synthetic drugs are chemically laced substances akin to marijuana, cocaine, and methamphetamine. Though the drugs’ packaging states the products are not intended for human consumption, their design, labeling, and marketing clearly allude to the products being smoked and inhaled as a drug.

Based on their chemical make-up, these drugs are commonly divided into two categories:


Popularly known as K2 or Spice, cannabinoids are chemically formulated versions of synthetic marijuana that consist of lab-manufactured THC.

K2 or “Spice” is a mixture of herbs and spices that is typically sprayed with a synthetic compound chemically similar to THC, the psychoactive ingredients in marijuana. The chemical compounds typically include HU-210, HU-211, JWH-018, and JWH-073. K2 is commonly purchased in head shops, tobacco shops, various retail outlets, and over the Internet. It is often marketed as incense or “fake weed.” Purchasing over the Internet can be dangerous because it is not usually known where the products come from or what amount of chemical is on the organic material.


Often known as “bath salts,” cathinones contain chemical compounds that mimic the effects of cocaine or meth.

K2/Spice (Cannabinoids)

The physical signs of use are very troubling. You may notice increased agitation, profuse sweating, pale skin or vomiting. But what may be of the greatest concern is the loss of physical control – a kind of brain-body disconnect. This is where you may see seizures, a lack of pain response or uncontrolled/spastic body movements.

Looking at the effects another way, parents should know that the onset of this drug is fairly quick, and – depending on a number of factors – the length of the high can last from one to eight hours.

The paranoia that is associated with K2/Spice is closer to the psychological reaction to PCP or angel dust than to the paranoia associated with marijuana.

One of the most frightening factors is that users may experience dysphoria. The best way to explain dysphoria is that it is the opposite of euphoria.

According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, calls nationwide indicate a dramatic rise in synthetic drug abuse. Calls from around the country to poison control centers regarding severe reactions to synthetic marijuana numbered 2,915 in 2010, but rose to more than 6,300 in 2011. Synthetic bath salt use is also on the rise. In 2010 poison control centers received 303 calls about injuries and deaths caused by bath salts; thus in 2011, there were over 6,000 reports.

K2- One of the signs that parents can look for is a strong clove smell. K2/Spice is typically smoked, so parents may find a coffee grinder around the house – which is often used to reduce the product to a fine powder so that it is easier to smoke – and other drug paraphernalia such as pipes or screens or wrapping papers.

K2- It is often labeled as incense, potpourri, or herbal smoking blend. It is sold under a variety of brand names including K2, Spice, Genie, Yucatan Fire, King Krypto, Mr. Nice Guy, K-3, Red Magic, Blueberry Medication, Super Skunk, Black Mamba, Bliss, Bombay Blue, and Zohai.

Bath Salts (Cathinones)

The first thing you should know is that the drug called Bath Salts is very different from the product that you put into a bath. The only reason why they have the same name is because the products look similar like a fine powder.

So – how can you tell if something that is labeled as a bath salt is really a drug?

Well, first off, if it is contained in a packet that is about the size of a moist towelette, it probably isn’t designed for use in a bathtub that can hold anywhere from 30 to 60 gallons of water.

But if it also says, “not for human consumption,” says that it is “not illegal” (never a good sign) or that it is for “adults only,” it is probably a drug that was created for ingestion and not for a hot bath.

So – what are Bath Salts anyway? They are a man-made, chemical (as opposed to organic) stimulant drug. Generally, stimulants are a class of drugs that elevate mood, increase feelings of well-being and increase energy and alertness. Amphetamines, or speed, are an example of stimulant drugs.

The technical term for Bath Salts is “substituted cathinone.” Now, what does that mean? You may have heard of Khat, a plant that is cultivated and used in East Africa and the Middle East. It has a stimulant effect on the user and can be quite dangerous. Substituted cathinones are synthetic, concentrated versions of the stimulant chemical in Khat. Methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV), mephedrone and methylone are the chemicals most often found in “Bath Salts.”
They can be ingested orally or snorted through the nose.

One reason that synthetic drugs are extremely dangerous is that buyers don’t know what chemicals they are ingesting. Individual products can contain a vast range of different chemical formulations and potencies, some of which can be two to 500 times stronger than THC.

It is also important to note that there is no standard formulation for these drugs. The composition of chemicals that is sold in one packet may be completely different than what is sold in an identical packet.

It is especially troubling that the long-term effects of these drugs are unknown because the drugs have only been used widely within the past decade. We don’t know what the future will hold or exactly how people will be affected long term

The effects of Bath Salts can be severe.

Effects reported to Poison Control Centers include:

  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Agitation
  • Combative/Violent behavior
  • Confusion
  • Hallucinations/psychosis
  • Increased heart rate
  • Seizures
  • Hypertension
  • Chest Pain
  • Decreased need for sleep
  • Lack of appetite
  • Death or serious injury
  • Self-mutilation
  • Very severe paranoia can sometimes cause users to harm themselves or others

The speed of onset is 15 minutes, while the length of the high from these drugs is four to six hours.

Users frequently describe the high as horrible and report seeing demons, monsters, aliens, and foreign soldiers. Some have symptoms for several days and require psychiatric care because their symptoms weren’t improving.

“Bath salts” are sold as crystalline powder in a small bag with names, such as Ivory Wave, Blow, Red Dove, Vanilla Sky, Aura, Zeus 2, Zoom, Bliss, Blue Silk, White Lightning, Ocean, Charge, Cosmic Blast, Scarface, Hurricane Charlie, Cloud 9, Energy 1, White Dove, and others.