By On April 10th, 2013

Legally Lethal: Bath Salts


I recently attended a conference hosted by the Oklahoma Drug and Alcohol Professional Counselor Association.  In the bathroom, there was a complimentary bowl of bath salts to rub on your hands.  It was an advertisement as the salt scrub was available for purchase in the hotel’s gift shop.  Another woman in the bathroom said, “What do the kids do with these bath salts, anyway?”  I explained to her the difference between the brightly pink colored bath salts in the bowl in front of us and the drug of the same name.  It got me thinking about the lack of awareness regarding synthetic drugs.  The woman who asked the question was a representative of a facility that treats those with drug and alcohol problems, so, if she was confused about what exactly bath salts were, the general public might know even less.

The drug known as bath salts is made up of synthetic cathinones, and is categorized as a stimulant.  Its effects are similar to cocaine, LSD, and methamphetamine.  Bath salts are ingested by swallowing, snorting, smoking, or injecting.  Because it is made up of chemicals that can be legally attained, the drug is easily obtainable for purchase at some convenience stores or online.  The drug came to the attention of authorities in 2010 due to reports from Poison Control Centers and hospital emergency departments.  In July of 2012 the Synthetic Drug Abuse Prevention Act was enacted.  The new law banned MDPV and mephedrone along with other common ingredients used in bath salts.  As the chemicals used to create the drug are declared illegal, however, other chemicals are picked up or modified to help maintain the drug’s legal status.  This keeps the sale of bath salts under the technically legal category, and it makes it difficult to get a handle on what exactly is contained in the drug.  The long term effects of bath salts are unknown.  Paranoia, psychosis and violent behavior are some of the immediate effects of the drug with the paranoia lasting, in some cases, for weeks after the initial use.  Several things about bath salts are appealing to people.  Along with the obvious high, the drug is not detectable on most drug screenings, and, as previously mentioned, is obtainable through legal channels.  This drug is also sold under the guise of carpet deodorizer, window cleaner or plant food.  Dr. Drew Pinsky described bath salts as “methamphetamine on crack.”

In the last year, there have been several stories in the news about violent shocking behavior with the cause attributed to bath salts.  Unfortunately, the sensationalistic portrayal of these events may have only added to the allure of the drug for some.  This blog series will explore other types of synthetic drugs as well as case studies of individuals who have received treatment at Brookhaven Hospital.

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