A new designer drug known as “bath salts” has become increasingly popular and increasingly scary. Poison centers across the U.S. have reported growing numbers of calls about the synthetic stimulant, and more and more states are banning the drug. But as of now, there is no federal law prohibiting their sale.
Make no mistake: These are not bath salts like those you would use in your bath.
On Sept. 7, 2011, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) invoked its "emergency scheduling authority" to control three synthetic stimulants -- mephedrone, MDPV, and methylone -- commonly called "bath salts" or "plant food" and marketed under such names as "Ivory Wave," "Purple Wave," Vanilla Sky," and "Bliss." The DEA plans to make possessing and selling these chemicals, or products that contain them, illegal in the United States. The emergency action will remain in effect for at least a year, during which time the government is expected to call for permanent control of the drugs.
Q & A from a WebMD Feature article where they spoke with Zane Horowitz, MD, an emergency room physician and medical director of the Oregon Poison Center, about what Bath salts are and why you should avoid them. Read now...
First of all, what are bath salts?
"The presumption is that most bath salts are MDPV, or methylenedioxypyrovalerone, although newer pyrovalerone derivatives are being made by illegal street chemists. Nobody really knows, because there is no way to test for these substances," Horowitz says.
Why are they called bath salts?
"It’s confusing. Is this what we put in our bathtubs, like Epsom salts? No. But by marketing them as bath salts and labeling them 'not for human consumption,' they have been able to avoid them being specifically enumerated as illegal," Horowitz says.
Are bath salts illegal?
"You can find them in mini-marts and smoke shops sold as Ivory Wave, Bolivian Bath, and other names," Horowitz says. "The people who make these things have skirted the laws that make these types of things illegal. While several states have banned the sale of bath salts, ultimately it will have to be a federal law that labels these as a schedule 1 drug, which means it has no medicinal value but a high potential for abuse, and declare them illegal."
What do you experience when you take bath salts?
"Agitation, paranoia, hallucinations, chest pain, suicidality. It’s a very scary stimulant that is out there. We get high blood pressure and increased pulse, but there’s something more, something different that’s causing these other extreme effects. But right now, there’s no test to pick up this drug. The only way we know if someone has taken them is if they tell you they have.
The clinical presentation is similar to mephedrone [a chemical found in other designer drugs], with agitation, psychosis, and stimulatory effects. Both of these agents should be of concern, as severe agitated behavior, like an amphetamine overdose, has occurred.
A second concern is the ongoing suicidality in these patients, even after the stimulatory effects of the drugs have worn off. At least for MDPV, there have been a few highly publicized suicides a few days after their use," Horowitz says
Are bath salts addictive? How are they taken?
"We don’t know if they are addictive. We have not had enough long-term experience with it. Acute toxicity is the main problem. But many stimulants do cause a craving. The people who take them are very creative. They snort it, shoot it, mix it with food and drink," Horowitz says.
Substance Abuse Agencies