Bath salt designer drugs banned
Citing safety, misuse, government forbids sale of stimulants
Injecting, snorting or smoking bath salts may result in intense hallucinations that can trigger suicidal thoughts and psychotic behavior.
But these bath salts are not the kind you throw into a tub of water. These designer drugs are classified under names like “bath salts” or “plant fertilizer” as a cover. On Oct. 21, the Drug Enforcement Administration scheduled a temporary, one-year federal ban on three stimulants found in bath salts.
“The reality is, this is every bit of dangerous as any drug we’ve ever seen, if not more so,” said Keith Boesen, the managing director at the Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center.
These bath salts are hallucinogenic amphetamines, Boesen said. They are known to cause hallucinations, extreme paranoia and agitation in patients.
“They think they’re constantly under attack, so they might attack other people,” he said. “Or they get into these very paranoid, depressive states … and patients have committed suicides.”
The “bath salts” label was a marketing ploy to get past U.S. regulations, Boesen said. The idea for manufacturers was to make the drugs appear as though they were selling as a bath product.
Ramona Sanchez, a public information officer for the DEA, said 37 states have taken action to control these synthetic stimulants. The DEA ban shows its commitment to keeping streets safe, she said.
“It will now be seen as a federal violation if anyone is caught in possession or selling them,” Sanchez said.
In Arizona, there are still people abusing the drugs. The Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center’s statistical data covers the whole state, except for Maricopa County. Since January, 86 bath salt cases have been called in, Boesen said.
There have been a consistent number of cases every month, he said. There were nine in August, nine in September and eight in October. There were less than 10 cases for all of 2010.
Laura Denton, a physiology freshman, said bath salts still seem to be under the radar in terms of students knowing about their uses, but said the ban could be helpful.
“It’s taking away the opportunity for people to hurt themselves,” she said.
Boesen said he doesn’t know whether the bath salts are now being purchased online or at local smoke shops.
Stores such as Hippie Gypsy, Moon Smoke Shop, and Epic Smoke Hookah and Glass do not sell bath salts. But people do call in and ask about them all the time, said Marcus Letter, the store manager at Epic Smoke Hookah and Glass.
A while back, Letter said he researched the bath salts and decided there was “no way” he would sell them at the shop because of how harmful they are.
Boesen said most of the bath salt cases have involved college students and teenagers. However, the last two patients were in their 40s and 50s.
“The problem we’ve seen with bath salts is the effects seem pretty unpredictable compared to what we’ve seen with methamphetamines or cocaine,” he said.
Those suffering from the effects of the bath salts don’t necessarily respond well to conventional drugs given to them to treat the symptoms. It can sometimes take a few days for patients to come out of their delusional state, Boesen said.
“Even if you used it once and didn’t have a problem, there’s a very good chance you will have a problem eventually.”
Patients who have used the drugs for shorter periods of time have gone into psychotic and delusional states where they have been admitted to psychological facilities, he said.
People making the bath salts use cheap ingredients that may not be mixed with the same amount of chemicals each time, Boesen said. They just want to make the biggest profit.
Poison centers across the country continuously collect data on symptoms people have to help build an idea of what’s happening, he added.
“The hard part is the chemicals keep changing, so we don’t know which chemicals are causing which problems necessarily, and that’s still trying to be figured out,” Boesen said. “This is a lesson we don’t need to learn if people would stop using it.”