The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) took emergency action that makes possessing and selling these chemicals or products that contain them illegal in the United States.
Under the federal order, the chemicals used to make bath salts -- mephedrone, methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV) and methylone -- are banned for at least one year.
Studies will then determine if the chemicals should be permanently banned.
The action places the chemicals on the DEA's most restrictive list, reserved for substances with high potential for abuse and that do not have a currently accepted use for treatment.
Bath salts are marketed with catchy names like "Ivory Wave," "Purple Wave," "Vanilla Sky" and "Bliss" and are comprised of chemicals that mimic the effects of drugs like cocaine and LSD, authorities said.
Users have reported impaired perception, reduced motor control, disorientation, extreme paranoia and violent episodes, with other unknown longer-term physical and psychological effects.
Bath salts, also sometimes sold as "plant food," are growing in popularity among young adults and teens. They are sold at tobacco shops, gas stations, convenience stores and online, according to the DEA.
The products are typically marked "not for human consumption" but are commonly snorted, swallowed or injected by users. They have not been approved by the federal regulators for human consumption or medical use.
Poison control centers, hospitals and police have been fielding an increasing number of calls about products containing the chemicals in bath salts, the DEA said.