Rapid and versatile direct analysis in real time mass spectrometry (DART-MS) methods were developed for detection and characterization of synthetic cathinone designer drugs, also known as “bath salts”. The speed and efficiency associated with DART-MS testing of such highly unpredictable samples demonstrate the technique as an attractive alternative to conventional GC-MS and LC-MS methods. A series of isobaric and closely related synthetic cathinones, alone and in mixtures, were differentiated using high mass accuracy and in-source collision induced dissociation (CID). Crime laboratories have observed a dramatic rise in the use of these substances, which has caused sample testing backlogs, particularly since the myriad of structurally related compounds are challenging to efficiently differentiate. This challenge is compounded by the perpetual emergence of new structural variants as soon as older generation derivatives become scheduled. Because of the numerous chemical substances that fall into these categories, along with the varying composition and complexity of mixtures of these drugs, DART-MS CID has the potential to dramatically streamline sample analysis, minimize the number of sample preparation steps, and enable rapid characterization of emerging structural analogs.