L.A. County Officials Warn Against Use of ‘Bath Salts’

Los Angeles County health officials are warning people against the use of an over-the-counter drug commonly known as “bath salts.”

“Bath salts,” also known under the street names of White Lightening, White Rush and Hurricane Charlie, is a synthetic drug that’s been gaining in popularity over the years has recently been linked to violent and bizarre behavior.

The drug is comprised of chemicals that mimic the effects of drugs like cocaine and LSD and is often sold in tobacco or smoke shops under the label of “plant food” or “pond water cleaner.”

Officials warn that the drug should not be consumed, used as plant food or to clean pond water. It should also not be confused with similarly named bath-related products sold in beauty and drug stores.

“Bath salts are particularly dangerous in that not much is known about what goes into the drug and even less is known about what people are capable of while on this drug,” said Jonathan E. Fielding, MD, MPH, Director of Public Health and Health Officer.

“We do know that there are harmful risks to users, and there is an increased potential for others to be harmed if someone near them is high on this drug.”

Last year, federal authorities issued a ban on chemicals used in the making of the drugs, which include mephedrone, methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV) and methylone.

Bath salts recently made headlines after a Deutsche Bank executive who claimed he was beaten and abused by Los Angeles police officers admitted he was under the influence of the drug.

Symptoms of people using bath salts include lack of appetite, decreased need for sleep, sweating, chest pain and rapid heart rate.

More dangerous side effects include seizures, hallucinations, self-mutilation, severe paranoia and kidney and liver failure.

Study Shows Exactly Why ‘Bath Salts’ Are So Dangerous

Designer street drugs called bath salts are highly addictive and cause hyperactivity, rapid heart rate, and high blood pressure, according to an illuminating study on two substances published earlier this week.

Bath salts represent an increasingly problematic segment of the nation’s battle with substance use and dependence. The number of calls to the American Association of Poison Control Centers from people sickened by bath salts skyrocketed from 303 in 2010 to 6,072 last year. The new study, performed on animals, provides a scientific look at how the chemicals impact the brain. The research is important for public health and substance-abuse professionals trying to prevent more people from experimenting with the drugs and helping those who become addicted.

“The fundamental problem with the whole bath salts phenomenon is we don’t know anything about the pharmacological effects and possible toxic effects of these substances,” Dr. Michael Baumann, the lead author of the study and a staff scientist at the National Institute on Drug Abuse, told TakePart. “Where do they interact in the brain and in the periphery? From a public health perspective, we really need to know what those risks might be.”

Bath salts represent a class of designer drugs that began showing up on U.S. streets about three years ago. Sold as a synthetic powder, the drugs are available online and in drug paraphernalia stores. Besides the term bath salts, the drugs are known by names such as “Ivory Wave,” “Purple Wave,” “Red Dove,” “Blue Silk,” “Zoom,” “Bloom,” “Cloud Nine,” “Ocean Snow,” “Lunar Wave,” “Vanilla Sky,” “White Lightning,” “Scarface,” and “Hurricane Charlie,” according to NIDA. The drugs are inhaled, swallowed, injected, or snorted.

Chemically, bath salts resemble naturally occurring substances called cathinones, which have a chemical structure similar to amphetamines, although the effects of the synthetic substances on the brain is far different from what nature intended with cathinones.

In July, President Obama signed a law banning known versions of the drugs, including those that contain several popular active ingredients known as methylone, mephedrone and methylenedioxypyrovalerone, or MDPV. But street chemists continue to tweak the concoctions to produce new versions that escape Drug Enforcement Agency classification.

“We have a whole new wave of second-generation or replacement cathinones,” Baumann says. “MDPV, mephedrone and methylone are being replaced. [Manufacturers] change the structure of the molecules ever so slightly. So this is a formidable problem.”

The new study, published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology, explains why users should fear the effects of bath salts. Like the drug MDMA—or Ecstasy—the active compounds in bath salts examined in the study attach to chemical transporters on the surface of some neurons. This leads to increases in the brain chemicals serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine, and prolongs the effects of dopamine and norepinephrine in a part of the brain called the nucleus accumbens.