Objective: We describe use and effects of head shop powders among opiate dependant polydrug users and recreational drug users. These powders contain cathinones and were sold as bath salts or plant food via the internet or in head shops.
Method: As this is a relatively new phenomenon, a qualitative approach using three data sources, in-depth interviews, a focus group (containing 10 opiate users) and a head shop website containing 49 product reviews, was employed. Themes were identified.
Results: According to the study population, these powders mimic the effects of cocaine, ecstasy and amphetamines. These substances were snorted, ingested or injected by people and were not used as bath salts or plant food. The users' experience indicates that these powders have the potential for dependence, and exhibit side effects such as insomnia, anxiety and other mental health effects. The users report that the effects of the substances vary over time indicating that the chemical contents of the powders may change.
Conclusion: Though users' descriptions of effects varied, there were indications of health and dependency effects which were more severe and more common among problematic opiate users, who also experienced increased social vulnerability. In general the recreational drug users considered their side effects to be mild and worth the drug induced experience.