Medical experts are warning of a potentially lethal new designer drug exploding in popularity across the United States this year. The stimulant is sold as “bath salts” and in many states it is perfectly legal. [It's also sometimes sold as "plant food." --Ed.]
The substance, sold as powder or crystals, is a man-made synthetic and often contains chemicals such as mephedrone and methylenedioxypyrovalerone, or MDPV, according to The New York Times. Despite a warning on the label indicating the product is “not for human consumption,” the drug is often snorted, smoked or injected, leading to dangerous side effects with severe psychological effects. In fact, emergency rooms and poison control centers are reporting a sharp increase in bath salt cases.
The Washington Post reported in January the chemicals might cause hallucinations, paranoia and an elevated heart rate. According to the stories, authorities say bath salts have been responsible for a number of suicides and that some people under the influence of the substance have committed murder.
Lawmakers in many states have attempted to ban the substance sold in head shops and convenience stores under such names as Ivory Wave, Bliss, White Lightning and Hurricane Charlie. Much like synthetic marijuana products sold as incense, bath salts often skirt the ban when the manufacturer slightly alters the chemical makeup of the product.
A complete ban by the Drug Enforcement Administration could take years because of a lengthy evaluation process, according to The Washington Post. However in February, U.S. Sen. Charles E. Schumer, (D-NY) introduced legislation that would make bath salts a Schedule I substance, the same classification as heroin and LSD.
Ryan Schill is a writer and reporter with the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange. He also hosts the Juvenile Justice Week in Review, a fast-paced one-minute video roundup of the week’s top juvenile justice stories. Ryan is currently a graduate student studying professional writing at Kennesaw State University in Georgia as well as editor-in-chief of KSU’s student feature magazine, Talon.