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.

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ICE participates in nationwide synthetic drug takedown


ICE participates in nationwide synthetic drug takedown

 

WASHINGTON – More than 90 individuals were arrested and approximately five million packets of finished designer synthetic drugs were seized in the first-ever nationwide law enforcement action against the synthetic designer drug industry responsible for the production and sale of synthetic drugs that are often marketed as bath salts, Spice, incense, or plant food. More than $36 million in cash was also seized.

As of today, more than 4.8 million packets of synthetic cannabinoids (K2, Spice) and the products to produce nearly 13.6 million more, as well as 167,000 packets of synthetic cathinones (bath salts), and the products to produce an additional 392,000 were seized.

Operation Log Jam was conducted jointly by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), with assistance from the IRS Criminal Investigation, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, FBI, Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Criminal Investigations, as well as state and local law enforcement members in more than 109 U.S. cities and targeted every level of the synthetic designer drug industry, including retailers, wholesalers and manufacturers.

“Today, we struck a huge blow to the synthetic drug industry. The criminal organizations behind the importation, distribution and selling of these synthetic drugs have scant regard for human life in their reckless pursuit of illicit profits,” said Acting Director of ICE’s Office of Homeland Security Investigations James Chaparro. “ICE is committed to working with our law enforcement partners to bring this industry to its knees.”

“Although tremendous progress has been made in legislating and scheduling these dangerous substances, this enforcement action has disrupted the entire illegal industry, from manufacturers to retailers,” said DEA Administrator Michele M. Leonhart. “Together with our federal, state and local law enforcement partners, we are committed to targeting these new and emerging drugs with every scientific, legislative and investigative tool at our disposal.”

“The synthetic drug industry is an emerging area where we can leverage our financial investigative expertise to trace the path of illicit drug proceeds by identifying the financial linkages among the various co-conspirators,” said Richard Weber, chief, IRS Criminal Investigation. “We will continue working with our law enforcement partners to disrupt and ultimately dismantle the highest level drug trafficking and drug money laundering organizations that pose the greatest threat to Americans and American interests.”

“The U.S. Postal Inspection Service aggressively investigates the use of the U.S. Mail system for the distribution of illegal controlled substances and its proceeds. Our agency uses a multi-tiered approach to these crimes: protection against the use of the mail for illegal purposes and enforcement of laws against drug trafficking and money laundering. This includes collaboration with other agencies,” said Chief Postal Inspector Guy J. Cottrell.

“The mission of U.S. Customs and Border Protection is to guard our country’s borders from people and goods that could harm our way of life,” said Acting Commissioner David V. Aguilar. “We are proud to be part of an operation that disrupts the flow of synthetic drugs into the country and out of the hands of the American people.”

Over the past several years, there has been a growing use of, and interest in, synthetic cathinones (stimulants/hallucinogens) sold under the guise of “bath salts” or “plant food.” Marketed under names such as “Ivory Wave,” “Purple Wave,” “Vanilla Sky,” or “Bliss,” these products are comprised of a class of dangerous substances perceived to mimic cocaine, LSD, MDMA and/or methamphetamine. Users have reported impaired perception, reduced motor control, disorientation, extreme paranoia and violent episodes. The long-term physical and psychological effects of use are unknown but potentially severe.

These products have become increasingly popular, particularly among teens and young adults and those who mistakenly believe they can bypass the drug testing protocols that have been set up by employers and government agencies to protect public safety. They are sold at a variety of retail outlets, in head shops and over the Internet. However, they have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for human consumption or for medical use, and there is no oversight of the manufacturing process.

Smokable herbal blends marketed as being “legal” and providing a marijuana-like high have also become increasingly popular, particularly among teens and young adults, because they are easily available and, in many cases, they are more potent and dangerous than marijuana. These products consist of plant material that has been coated with dangerous psychoactive compounds that mimic THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. Just as with the synthetic cathinones, synthetic cannabinoids are sold at a variety of retail outlets, in head shops and over the Internet. Brands such as “Spice,” “K2,” “Blaze,” and “Red X Dawn” are labeled as incense to mask their intended purpose.

While many of the designer drugs being marketed today that were seized as part of Operation Log Jam are not specifically prohibited in the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), the Controlled Substance Analogue Enforcement Act of 1986 (AEA) allows these drugs to be treated as controlled substances if they are proven to be chemically and/or pharmacologically similar to a Schedule I or Schedule II controlled substance. A number of cases that are part of Operation Log Jam will be prosecuted federally under this analogue provision, which specifically exists to combat these new and emerging designer drugs.

DEA has used its emergency scheduling authority to combat both synthetic cathinones (the so-called bath salts like Ivory Wave, etc.) and synthetic cannabinoids (the so-called incense products like K2, Spice, etc.), temporarily placing several of these dangerous chemicals into Schedule I of the CSA. Congress has also acted, permanently placing 26 substances into Schedule I of the CSA.

In 2010, poison centers nationwide responded to about 3,200 calls related to synthetic “Spice” and “bath salts.” In 2011, that number jumped to more than 13,000 calls. Sixty percent of the cases involved patients 25 and younger

INFO FROM http://www.ice.gov/news/releases/1207/120726washingtondc.htm

Drugs Stay Legal After ‘Bath Salts’ Ban


  • bath salts.jpg
    AP Photo/The Patriot-News, Chris Knight

It’s the same old story.  People making up new ways to get high while lawmakers attempt to catch up to the ever-changing, ever-growing drug culture.

Over the past two years, the U.S. has seen a surge in the use of synthetic drugs made of legal chemicals that mimic the dangerous effects of cocaine, amphetamines and other illegal stimulants.

The drugs are often sold at small, independent stores in misleading packaging that suggests common household items like bath salts, incense and plant food. But the substances inside are powerful, mind-altering drugs that have been linked to bizarre and violent behavior across the country. Law enforcement officials refer to the drugs collectively as “bath salts,” though they have nothing in common with the fragrant toiletries used to moisturize skin.

President Barack Obama signed a bill into law earlier this month that bans the sale, production and possession of more than two dozen of the most common bath salt drugs. But health professionals say lawmakers cannot keep pace with bath salt producers, who constantly adjust their chemical formulations to come up with new synthetic drugs that aren’t covered by new laws. Experts who have studied the problem estimate there are more than 100 different bath salt chemicals in circulation.

“The moment you start to regulate one of them, they’ll come out with a variant that sometimes is even more potent,” said Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

There are no back alleys or crack houses in America’s latest drug epidemic. The problem involves potent substances that amateur chemists make, package and sell in stores under brands like “Ivory Wave,” ”Vanilla Sky” and “Bliss” for as little as $15. Emergencies related to the drugs have surged: The American Association of Poison Control Centers received more than 6,100 calls about bath salt drugs in 2011 — up from just 304 the year before — and more than 1,700 calls in the first half of 2012.

The problem for lawmakers is that it’s difficult to crack down on the drugs. U.S. laws prohibit the sale or possession of all substances that mimic illegal drugs, but only if federal prosecutors can show that they are intended for human use. People who make bath salts and similar drugs work around this by printing “not for human consumption” on virtually every packet.

Barbara Carreno, a spokeswoman for the Drug Enforcement Agency, said the intended use for bath salts is clear.

“Everyone knows these are drugs to get high, including the sellers,” she said.

Many states have banned some of the most common bath salts, which are typically sold by small businesses like convenience stores, tobacco shops and adult book stores. For instance, West Virginia legislators banned the bath salt drug MDPV last year, making it a misdemeanor to sell, buy or possess the synthetic drug. Conviction means up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Stephanie Mitchell, assistant manager of The Den, a tobacco and paraphernalia shop in Morgantown, W.Va., said the store hasn’t sold bath salts in the six months that she’s worked there. But strung-out users still come in and ask for them.

“They’re pretty … cracked out, I guess would be a good word,” said Mitchell, 21, a student at West Virginia University. “They’re just kind of not all there. They’re kind of sketchy people.”

Mitchell says she wouldn’t sell bath salts even if she had them, “because it’s horrible, and I could get in trouble for it.”

Despite the bans, bath salts producers are constantly tweaking their recipes to come up with new drugs that aren’t covered by local laws. In fact, Mark Ryan, director of the Louisiana Poison Center, says there are so many different drugs out there that it’s almost impossible to know what people have ingested, or how long the effects will last.

“Cocaine is cocaine and meth is meth. We know what these things do,” he said. “But with these new drugs, every time the chemist alters the chemical structure, all bets are off.”

The Spread

The most common bath salt drugs, like MDPV and mephedrone, were first developed in pharmaceutical research laboratories, though they were never approved for medical use. During the last decade they became popular as party drugs at European raves and dance clubs. As law enforcement began cracking down on the problem there, the drugs spread across the Atlantic Ocean.

Poison control centers in the U.S. began tracking use of the drugs in 2010. The majority of the early reports of drug use were clustered in Southern states like Louisiana, Tennessee and Kentucky. But the problem soon spread across the country.

The financial lure for small-time drugmakers is enticing. The drugs can be cheaply imported from China or India, and then easily packaged under local brands. For example, bath salts sold in Louisiana carry regional names like Hurricane Charlie or Bayou.

The widespread availability of the drugs in stores is equally alluring for drug users: they can get a cheap high similar to that of illegal drugs by walking to a corner store.

The most dangerous synthetic drugs are stimulants that affect levels of both dopamine and serotonin, brain chemicals that affect mood and perception. Users, who typically smoke or snort the powder-based drugs, may experience a surge in energy, fever and delusions of invincibility.

Use of these drugs has spread across the country with reports stretching from Maine to California. There are no official federal estimates on deaths connected with the drugs, many of which do not show up on typical drug tests. But police reports have implicated the drugs in several cases.

Packets of “Lady Bubbles” bath salts, for instance, were found on Sgt. David Franklyn Stewart last April after the solider shot and killed his wife and himself during a car chase with law enforcement near Olympia, Wash.

The chase began when Stewart sped past a police patrol car at 6 a.m. The police trooper pursued for 10 miles and reported seeing the driver raise a hand to his head, then heard a shot and saw the driver slump over. The next day police found the couple’s 5-year-old son dead in their home; he had been suffocated with a plastic bag at least 24 hours earlier.

Another death involving bath salts played out in Covington, La. Police reported that Dickie Sanders, 21, shot himself in the head Nov. 11, 2010 while his parents were asleep.

His father, Dr. Richard Sanders, said his son had snorted “Cloud 9” bath salts and endured three days of intermittent delirium, at one point attempting to cut his own throat. As he continued to have visions, his physician father tried to calm him. But the elder Sanders said that as he slept, his son went into another room and shot himself.

What’s Ahead

Hospital emergency rooms, doctors and law enforcement agencies across the country have struggled to control bath salt drug users who often are feverish and paranoid that they are being attacked. Doctors say users often turn up naked because bath salts raise their body temperature so much that they strip off their clothing.

Cookeville Regional Medical Center in Tennessee has treated 160 people suspected of taking bath salts since 2010. Dr. Sullivan Smith, who works there, said people on the drugs become combative, and it can take four or five health professionals to subdue them. In some cases, he said, doctors have to use prescription sedatives that are typically reserved for surgery.

Smith recalls one man who had been running for more than 24 hours because he believed the devil was chasing him with an ax. By the time police brought him to the hospital, he was dehydrated and covered in blood from running through thorny underbrush.

“We’re seeing extreme agitation, hallucinations that are very vivid, paranoia and some really violent behavior, so it’s a real crisis for us,” Smith said. “We sedate the living daylights out of them. And we’re talking doses on the order of 10 or 20 times what you would give for a painful procedure.”

To control the spread of the problem, the Drug Enforcement Agency issued a temporary ban in October on three of the most common drugs — mephedrone, methylone and MDPV. That ban became permanent under the bill signed by Obama on July 10.

Under the law, anyone convicted of selling, making or possessing 28 synthetic drugs, including bath salts, will face penalties similar to those for dealing traditional drugs like cocaine and heroin.

Those on the front lines say the legislation is a good start. But they don’t expect new laws to dramatically curb use of bath salts in the near term.

“The problem is these drugs are changing and I’m sure they’re going to find some that are a little bit different chemically so they don’t fall under the law,” said Dr. Smith, the Tennessee doctor. “Is it adequate to name five or 10 or even 20? The answer is no, they’re changing too fast.”

Read more: http://latino.foxnews.com/latino/health/2012/07/26/drugs-stay-legal-after-bath-salts-ban/#ixzz22DSc4GkX

Middletown man high on bath salts threatens to burn down local house


MIDDLETOWN — A city man was charged with second-degree unlawful restraint after allegedly snorting bath salts and saying he would burn down a house, police report.

Daniel Ventre, 28, 64 Pearl St., was also charged with third-degree assault. He was issued a summons for the charges and police reported completing an emergency committal form to have Ventre admitted to the hospital. He is due in court July 30.

Officers were sent to the victim’s home on July 29 around 6:10 p.m. for a report of a disturbance. The victim told police she fled to her mother’s home because of an argument with an ex-boyfriend, police said. She said Ventre had come over and she let him stay the night, but on Saturday morning they had a fight.

Ventre allededly threw her cell phone against a wall, breaking it, the victim told police. She also told police Ventre had been “smoking and snorting ‘bath salts’” and she was scared of him because he was “out of control.”

 

Ventre allegedly started pulling the victim’s hair and choking her, accusing her of stealing his bath salts, police said. The victim tried to leave, but Ventre said he would call the state Department of Children and Families and have her kids taken away if she did. He also threatened to burn the house down, police said.

Police reported seeing bruises on the victim’s arms and side and scratches on her neck. She was able to get to her mother’s house a short time later to call the police.

Ventre told police he and the victim had both been “smoking and snorting the ‘bath salts’ all weekend” before they got into a fight. Ventre said he was just defending himself, according to police.

Ventre had a difficult time focusing on the conversation, would randomly start talking about different subjects and his eyes were glassy and bloodshot, police said. He was confused and changed his story several times, according to police.

While being transported to the police station, Ventre allegedly complained of stomach pain and said he would kill himself and harm others in the process, so police took him to the hospital to be evaluated. He was ordered to have no contact with the victim.

Bath salt incident draws police to Taunton Burger King


Taunton —

Police say an incident over the weekend at a local fast food restaurant illustrates the growing menace of so-called bath salts.

The synthetic designer drug, when smoked, snorted or injected, provides a cocaine or amphetamine-like intoxication that can cause hallucinations and paranoia.

Previously popular in Europe, the drug is sometimes sold domestically “under the counter” by unscrupulous convenience store or gas station owners, according to law enforcement authorities.
Taunton police at 9:45 p.m. Sunday responded to the Burger King at 294 Winthrop St. for a report of a distraught individual who was acting irrationally.

Employees and startled customers described how a man ran inside dripping of mud and water and screaming that someone was trying to kill him.

Bystanders allegedly told cops the man — later identified as 31-year-old Eric Conklin of 28 North Walker St. — then began stripping off his clothes, ran into the ladies room and locked himself in.

When an officer knocked on the bathroom door, the unclothed Conklin allegedly opened up and said, “Thank God you’re here.”

Police say during the past few weeks they’ve had numerous run-ins with Conklin, who allegedly has admitted using drugs known on the street as bath salts.

Each time, according to cops, Conklin has been highly agitated, sweating profusely, talking irrationally and claiming that someone is out to get him.

Conklin Sunday night was charged with disturbing the peace. The police report also notes that if he doesn’t get professional counseling and treatment chances are he’s likely to hurt himself or other people.

In May, a 31-year-old Miami man was shot to death after police said he chewed off chunks of flesh from the face of a 65-year-old homeless man.

Police initially suspected the attacker had been high on bath salts, but subsequent toxicology tests revealed marijuana, and not synthetic cathinones, was in his bloodstream when he brutalized the victim and threatened cops.

One night earlier this month, in Taunton, two people allegedly left their car in the middle of Summer Street and ran into the lobby of the police station claiming they had ingested bath salts.

The pair were taken to hospital where they were examined and released.

President Obama on July 9 signed a law identifying the active ingredients in bath salts as illegal. A total of 38 states now ban the sale of bath salts.

But products with names like Vanilla Sky, Ivory Wave and Bliss continue to be sold in some places. Authorities in the past have said warning labels, stating the products are not suitable for human consumption, has made across-the-board enforcement difficult.

In Massachusetts the Legislature is expected to pass a measure effectively banning sale of bath-salt products.The House already passed an amendment categorizing as drug trafficking the sale of such amphetamines; the Senate, meanwhile, has until this Wednesday to act.

Taunton Police Chief Edward Walsh says he’s prepared to take measures if lawmakers fail to act. Walsh said if a state law isn’t adopted to ban the sale of bath salt-like crystals, he’ll introduce a municipal ordinance making it illegal.

State Sen. Marc Pacheco, D-Taunton, said the bath salt issue is “something we’re serious about.”

“I’ve heard a number of horror stories,” Pacheco said. “It’s being looked at very seriously.”

Managers and owners of four Taunton convenience stores on Monday insisted they don’t and never have sold bath salts, which can sell for anywhere between $15 and $35 per gram.

Alie Soufan, owner of Grampy’s Corner Store on High Street, said he’s never seen bath salts but occasionally is asked if he sells them.

Another store owner, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said after he informed a customer he doesn’t sell bath salts, the man and a friend eventually came back with the drug and asked why he couldn’t keep it in stock.

Peter Ibrahim, owner of Pete’s Mart on County Street, said he’s been queried on occasion by police who suspect he might have sold the potentially deadly product.

Ibrahim, 30, said in the more than eight years he’s owned his store he’s never carried such an item.

“I’ve told them they can come in here with a search warrant if they want; I’ve got nothing to hide,” said Ibrahim, who blames unnamed local competitors with spreading rumors to damage his reputation.

As for the availability of bath salts in the Taunton area, Ibrahim said he knows of at least one storeowner who in the past has sold them under the table.

‘Bath Salts’ A Deadly New Drug


Bath Salts, sold in small packets with names like “Blue Wave,” “Cloud Nine,” and “White Lady,” are the newest — and scariest — designer drug. (Image of legitimate bath salts via Wikipedia)

Can the headlines really have it right?  Is there really a new drug that makes people so violent they bite each others’ faces off? I wish this was a News of the Worldheadline that we could all dismiss, along with the stories of alien babies and women giving birth at 95. But in this case, the headlines do have it right — sort of.

Yes, unfortunately, there’s a new drug making its way into communities across the country and it’s really, really scary.

How scary? Well, in the incident described in the current headlines, a 31-year-old man, Rudy Eugene of Miami, attacked a 65-year-old homeless man, stripped off all his clothes, dived on top of him, and started chewing off his face. Eugene had a history of run-ins with the police, and had been accused of domestic violence, but his history hadn’t suggested a risk of public violence. The explanation — if there is one — seems to be that bath salts can trigger a full-blown psychotic episode with extreme delusions.

Who knows what type of hallucination would lead someone to eat another person’s face, but you can imagine it would have to be a pretty extreme and vivid one. Reports from onlookers characterized Eugene as a “zombie,” behaving as if he were under the control of some evil spectre.

So what are “Bath Salts” – and how did the drug get this ridiculously misleading name?

Like Ecstasy and methamphetamine, the drug known as “bath salts” is a designer drug, which means it’s synthetic, concocted in a lab. (On the street, it’s also sometimes called “bath powder,” “herbal incense,” or “plant food.”) What makes the term “bath salts” more confusing, though, is that name is used for a surprisingly large number of different chemical combinations.

To understand what the drug does, think of “bath salts” as a cross between meth and acid. Well, sort of. Like cocaine, meth, and speed, bath salts work by stimulating the central nervous system, kicking it into overdrive, if you will. But the drug also apparently causes paranoid delusions and/or hallucinations. Experts are saying it’s psychoactive, rather than hallucinogenic like acid, but the end result appears to be similar: delusional beliefs acted upon in violent ways.

The key ingredients that go into bath salts are the synthetic compounds MDPV (3,4-Methylenedioxypyrovalerone), mephedrone, pyrovalerone, and methylone. But there are many other ingredients used in addition to these, or in place of them. For example, many of the “bath salts” seized have been found to contain extremely high levels of caffeine.

MDPV and mephedrone, the most common bath salts, originated as synthetic versions of a natural ingredient found in Khat (Catha edulis), a hallucinogenic plant found in eastern Africa. Cathinone, the active ingredient in khat, is a Schedule 1 controlled substance, meaning illegal. However,  MDPV and mephedrone were legal until Fall 2011 when the FDA banned them, but underground chemists keep skirting the law by slightly altering the chemical compounds to come up with new versions that are technically legal. The FDA now refers to bath salts as a “designer drug of the phenethylamine class.” Slang names for mephedrone include “meph,” “drone”, and MCAT.

Yikes! Where did bath salts come from?

Currently, the chemicals we call “bath salts” are most frequently manufactured and imported from China and Europe, but drug officials say it’s only a matter of time before American drug-cookers begin making them. The history of bath salts is both fascinating and frightening. The drug was actually first formulated in France in the 1920s, but disappeared until it was rediscovered from the obscurity of academia by an underground chemist. He published the recipe on a website known as called the Hive, which was shut down in 2004 for sharing waaayyyy too much info about illegal substances. But the word was out, and the drug became extremely popular all over Europe.

It might be interesting to those in the pharmaceutical and chemical fields to note that bath salts were legal in Israel starting around 2004, sold under the name hagigat. Once declared illegal, the cathinone was modified and another Israeli company, Neorganics, sold the drug as pills and liquids under several names, including Neodoves, until the Israeli government specifically made mephedrone illegal in 2008.

In the UK, various drugs in the bath salts category have become a serious problem, passed out like candy at music festivals and easily available at head shops and on the street. They’re now listed just behind marijuana, Ecstasy, and cocaine as the fourth most popular street drug.

Bath salts are cheap, innocent looking, easy to obtain, and many people think they’re legal, or at least know they’re unlikely to be caught and prosecuted for using them. Bath salts come in little packets with soothing names like “Blue Silk”, “Bliss,” “Vanilla Sky,” and “Ivory Wave,” and cost just $25-60 a packet. (Actually, according to one website, some have much scarier sounding names like “Crazy Train,” “White Slut,” and”Eight Ballz”.)

Bath salts can be smoked, snorted,  or injected. The initial symptoms are positive, including relaxation, euphoria, and a sense of warmth and wellbeing similar to Ecstasy. But pretty quickly a darker side of the drug kicks in.

The symptoms of being dangerously high on bath salts include (but aren’t limited to):

  • extreme paranoia

    The FDA has banned the active ingredients in “Bath Salts” but drug designers keep a step ahead.

  • elevated heart rate, blood pressure, and pulse
  • extremely high body temperature
  • sleep deprivation
  • vivid hallucinations
  • hostility or aggression
  • strange eye movements
  • extreme sweating
  • panic attacks
  • suicidal thoughts

Oddly, given the list of symptoms above, another reported side effect of bath salts is “an intense desire to use the drug again.” In other words, it’s highly addictive. Overdoses of bath salts can quickly turn into emergencies because of the lack of knowledge about the drug. Because “bath salts” is a collective term for a bunch of different ingredients, there’s no test to determine if someone took the drug. The only way to know for sure is if the user admits that’s what they took.

Bath Salts and Crime

Bath salts are absurdly easy to get hold of. They’re sold in “head shops” all over the country and even behind the counters in many convenience stores. Reports of violence associated with “bath salts” have been confused by the use of different names for the drug compounds. But those who’ve taken them report feeling that they experienced “pure evil.” Here are just a few of the episodes reported around the country:

  • California: Two 15-year-old boys fell violently ill and developed small holes in their lungs after consuming mephedrone, which they thought was MDMA. The drug was sold to them by a student at a nearby college.
  • Colorado: A drug called Alpha-PVP, a type of bath salt, led to a young man’s death by strangulation when friends tried to restrain him during a violent fit.
  • Washington: Investigators believe that a double murder-suicide in which a man killed his wife and five-year-old son, then shot himself.
  • Louisiana: A 21-year-old Louisiana man slit his throat in front of his family after he snorted bath salts, because he believed police were after him.
  • Pennsylvania: Police arrested a couple high on bath salts who had nearly cut their 5-year-old daughter with a knife, which they were using to stab the “90 people” they believed were “living in the walls” of their apartment.
  • Kentucky: A prison guard off duty reportedly high on bath salts was cited for 10 different acts of violence in two different towns, and ultimately had to be tasered.
  • West Virginia: A man high on bath salts was found wandering the woods in lingerie after he allegedly stabbed a goat.
  • Indiana: A man committed suicide after telling his family for weeks that the FBI were following him and watching him eat.
  • Ohio: A young man was fatally shot after he held a knife to his girlfriend’s neck.
  • California: Two recent suicides have been attributed to bath salts.
  • Police around the country say they’re seeing a spike in domestic violence and assault cases connected with bath salts.

Is Bath Salts an Epidemic?

No, nowhere close. The real drug epidemic is oxycodone, which is now the second highest cause of accidental death in the U.S., behind car accidents.

But what’s scary about bath salts is how the drug seems to have appeared out of nowhere, and how fast it’s taking hold. In the past year, the number of calls to poison control centers about bath salts increased more than 20 times, according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, from 304 reports in 2010 to 6,138 in 2011. According to the FDA, no reports of the drug surfaced until 2009, during which the FDA reported two cases. By the following year there were more than 300 cases, and by last year the number had tripled to over 900 cases.

That’s a tiny number, to be sure. But those most often using the drugs are kids and teens, whose brains and central nervous systems are still developing. In fact, experts say the drugs are marketed directly to kids, with cartoon characters on the colorful packages.

So we have a drug that’s easily available, inexpensive, innocent sounding, and profoundly addictive. Doesn’t that sound to you like we’re going to have a serious new drug problem on our hands in a few years?

Many drugs remain legal after ‘bath salts’ ban


People are inventing so many new, legal ways to get high that lawmakers can’t seem to keep up.

 

Over the past two years, the U.S. has seen a surge in the use of synthetic drugs made of legal chemicals that mimic the dangerous effects of cocaine, amphetamines and other illegal stimulants.

 

The drugs are often sold at small, independent stores in misleading packaging that suggests common household items like bath salts, incense and plant food. But the substances inside are powerful, mind-altering drugs that have been linked to bizarre and violent behavior across the country. Law enforcement officials refer to the drugs collectively as “bath salts,” though they have nothing in common with the fragrant toiletries used to moisturize skin.

 

President Barack Obama signed a bill into law earlier this month that bans the sale, production and possession of more than two dozen of the most common bath salt drugs. But health professionals say that there are so many different varieties of the drugs that U.S. lawmakers are merely playing catch up.

 

“The moment you start to regulate one of them, they’ll come out with a variant that sometimes is even more potent,” said Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

 

There are no back alleys or crack houses in America’s latest drug epidemic.

 

The problem involves potent substances that amateur chemists make, package and sell in stores under brands like “Ivory Wave,” “Vanilla Sky” and “Bliss” for as little as $15. Emergencies related to the drugs have surged: The American Association of Poison Control Centers received more than 6,100 calls about bath salt drugs in 2011 — up from just 304 the year before — and more than 1,700 calls in the first half of 2012.

 

The problem for lawmakers is that it’s difficult to crack down on the drugs. U.S. laws prohibit the sale or possession of all substances that mimic illegal drugs, but only if federal prosecutors can show that they are intended for human use. People who make bath salts and similar drugs work around this by printing “not for human consumption” on virtually every packet.

 

Barbara Carreno, a spokeswoman for the Drug Enforcement Agency, said the intended use for bath salts is clear.

 

“Everyone knows these are drugs to get high, including the sellers,” she said.

 

Many states have banned some of the most common bath salts, which are typically sold by small businesses like convenience stores, tobacco shops and adult book stores. For instance, West Virginia legislators banned the bath salt drug MDPV last year, making it a misdemeanor to sell, buy or possess the synthetic drug. Conviction means up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

 

Stephanie Mitchell, assistant manager of The Den, a tobacco and paraphernalia shop in Morgantown, W.Va., said the store hasn’t sold bath salts in the six months that she’s worked there. But strung-out users still come in and ask for them.

 

“They’re pretty … cracked out, I guess would be a good word,” said Mitchell, 21, a student at West Virginia University. “They’re just kind of not all there. They’re kind of sketchy people.”

 

Mitchell says she wouldn’t sell bath salts even if she had them, “because it’s horrible, and I could get in trouble for it.”

 

Despite the bans, bath salts producers are constantly tweaking their recipes to come up with new drugs that aren’t covered by local laws. In fact, Mark Ryan, director of the Louisiana Poison Center, says there are so many different drugs out there that it’s almost impossible to know what people have ingested, or how long the effects will last.

 

“Cocaine is cocaine and meth is meth. We know what these things do,” he said. “But with these new drugs, every time the chemist alters the chemical structure, all bets are off.”

 

 

 

The spread

 

The most common bath salt drugs, like MDPV and mephedrone, were first developed in pharmaceutical research laboratories, though they were never approved for medical use. During the last decade they became popular as party drugs at European raves and dance clubs. As law enforcement began cracking down on the problem there, the drugs spread across the Atlantic Ocean.

 

Poison control centers in the U.S. began tracking use of the drugs in 2010. The majority of the early reports of drug use were clustered in southern states like Louisiana, Tennessee and Kentucky. But the problem soon spread across the country.

 

The financial lure for small-time drugmakers is enticing. The drugs can be cheaply imported from China or India, and then easily packaged under local brands. For example, bath salts sold in Louisiana carry regional names like “Hurricane Charlie” or “Bayou.”

 

The widespread availability of the drugs in stores is equally alluring for drug users: they can get a cheap high similar to that of illegal drugs by walking to a corner store.

 

The most dangerous synthetic drugs are stimulants that affect levels of both dopamine and serotonin, brain chemicals that affect mood and perception. Users, who typically smoke or snort the powder-based drugs, may experience a surge in energy, fever and delusions of invincibility.

 

Use of these drugs has spread across the country with reports stretching from Maine to California. There are no official federal estimates on deaths connected with the drugs, many of which do not show up on typical drug tests. But police reports have implicated the drugs in several cases.

 

Packets of “Lady Bubbles” bath salts, for instance, were found on Sgt. David Franklyn Stewart last April after the solider shot and killed his wife and himself during a car chase with law enforcement near Olympia, Wash.

 

The chase began when Stewart sped past a police patrol car at 6 a.m. The police trooper pursued for 10 miles and reported seeing the driver raise a hand to his head, then heard a shot and saw the driver slump over. The next day police found the couple’s 5-year-old son dead in their home; he had been suffocated with a plastic bag at least 24 hours earlier.

 

Another death involving bath salts played out in Covington, La. Police reported that Dickie Sanders, 21, shot himself in the head Nov. 11, 2010 while his parents were asleep.

 

His father, Dr. Richard Sanders, said his son had snorted “Cloud 9” bath salts and endured three days of intermittent delirium, at one point attempting to cut his own throat. As he continued to have visions, his physician father tried to calm him. But the elder Sanders said that as he slept, his son went into another room and shot himself.

 

 

 

What’s ahead

 

Hospital emergency rooms, doctors and law enforcement agencies across the country have struggled to control bath salt drug users who often are feverish and paranoid that they are being attacked. Doctors say users often turn up naked because bath salts raise their body temperature so much that they strip off their clothing.

 

Cookeville Regional Medical Center in Tennessee has treated 160 people suspected of taking bath salts since 2010. Dr. Sullivan Smith, who works there, said people on the drugs become combative, and it can take four or five health professionals to subdue them.

 

In some cases, he said, doctors have to use prescription sedatives that are typically reserved for surgery.

 

Smith recalls one man who had been running for more than 24 hours because he believed the devil was chasing him with an ax. By the time police brought him to the hospital, he was dehydrated and covered in blood from running through thorny underbrush.

 

“We’re seeing extreme agitation, hallucinations that are very vivid, paranoia and some really violent behavior, so it’s a real crisis for us,” Smith said.

 

“We sedate the living daylights out of them.

 

“And we’re talking doses on the order of 10 or 20 times what you would give for a painful procedure,” Smith said.

 

To control the spread of the problem, the Drug Enforcement Agency issued a temporary ban in October on three of the most common drugs — mephedrone, methylone and MDPV. That ban became permanent under the bill signed by Obama on July 10.

Many drugs remain legal after ‘bath salts’ ban


WASHINGTON — People are inventing so many new ways to get high that lawmakers can’t seem to keep up.

Police remove boxes of evidence from Tebb’s Headshop on North Salina Street in Syracuse, N.Y., part of a statewide effort to target shops suspected of selling illegal synthetic drugs such as bath salts, Wednesday.

Police remove boxes of evidence from Tebb’s Headshop on North Salina Street in Syracuse, N.Y., part of a statewide effort to target shops suspected of selling illegal synthetic drugs such as bath salts, Wednesday. / Lauren Long/AP

Over the past two years, the U.S. has seen a surge in the use of synthetic drugs made of legal chemicals that mimic the dangerous effects of cocaine, amphetamines and other illegal stimulants.

The drugs are often sold at small, independent stores in misleading packaging that suggests common household items like bath salts, incense and plant food. But the substances inside are powerful, mind-altering drugs that have been linked to bizarre and violent behavior across the country. Law enforcement officials refer to the drugs collectively as “bath salts,” though they have nothing in common with the fragrant toiletries used to moisturize skin.

President Barack Obama signed a bill into law earlier this month that bans the sale, production and possession of more than two dozen of the most common bath salt drugs. But health professionals say lawmakers cannot keep pace with bath salt producers, who constantly adjust their chemical formulations to come up with new synthetic drugs that aren’t covered by new laws. Experts who have studied the problem estimate there are more than 100 different bath salt chemicals in circulation.

“The moment you start to regulate one of them, they’ll come out with a variant that sometimes is even more potent,” said Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

There are no back alleys or crack houses in America’s latest drug epidemic. The problem involves potent substances that amateur chemists make, package and sell in stores under brands like “Ivory Wave,” “Vanilla Sky” and “Bliss” for as little as $15. Emergencies related to the drugs have surged: The American Association of Poison Control Centers received more than 6,100 calls about bath salt drugs in 2011 — up from just 304 the year before — and more than 1,700 calls in the first half of 2012.

The problem for lawmakers is that it’s difficult to crack down on the drugs. U.S. laws prohibit the sale or possession of all substances that mimic illegal drugs, but only if federal prosecutors can show that they are intended for human use. People who make bath salts and similar drugs work around this by printing “not for human consumption” on virtually every packet.

Houston at center of major synthetic drug bust


DEA agents raided a facility in Houston and found more than $5 million worth of illegal synthetic drugs. Photo: . / HC

A covert Houston operation was at the center of a designer drug industry bust orchestrated by federal agents that resulted in the arrests of 90 people nationwide and the seizure of millions of packets of illegal synthetic drugs, sources close to the investigation told the Houston Chronicle.

Authorities in Houston raided a secret laboratory and local stores that were selling the synthetic drugs.

More than $36 million also was confiscated across 109 cities in the United States as part of the production and sale of what’s often marketed as bath salts, spice, incense, or plant food, according to an announcement Thursday made from Washington D.C.

“This was an actual manufacturer and distribution lab that was supplying Houston and the rest of the country,” DEA Houston chief Javier Pena said.

Pena said agents found more than 250,000 packages ready for distribution that contained one to five grams in each package. Agents said the loot was worth an estimated $5 million.

“This is major,” Pena said. “We were not expecting this.”

Pena said the location, which was in the Houston area, was used to mix the drug together and package it for distribution.

So-called bath salts mimic the effects of cocaine and methamphetamine and were recently made illegal in the United States.

“Although tremendous progress has been made in legislating and scheduling these dangerous substances, this enforcement action has disrupted the entire illegal industry, from manufacturers to retailers,” said DEA Administrator Michele M. Leonhart. “Together with our federal, state and local law enforcement partners, we are committed to targeting these new and emerging drugs with every scientific, legislative, and investigative tool at our disposal.”

Over the past several years, there has been a growing use of, and interest in, synthetic cathinones (stimulants/hallucinogens) sold under the guise of “bath salts” or “plant food.”

Marketed under names such as “Ivory Wave,” “Purple Wave,” “Vanilla Sky” or “Bliss,” these products are comprised of a class of dangerous substances. Users have reported impaired perception, reduced motor control, disorientation, extreme paranoia, and violent episodes. The long-term physical and psychological effects of use are unknown but potentially severe.

Roanoke seminars raise awareness of synthetic drugs


When the synthetic drug industry seeped into the Roanoke Valley, it took root silently. Then it flourished, and all virtually unnoticed, Roanoke Police Chief Chris Perkins said Thursday.

“When this hit and we started talking about it, it was like a tidal wave,” Perkins said. “We’re only now realizing there may have been a significant impact on crime in this area because of this issue.”

Kristin Bringewatt, with the Roanoke County Community Youth Program at St. John’s Episcopal Church and a volunteer with Roanoke County Fire & Rescue, studies the framed exhibit of synthetic drugs being marketed around the country.

Photos by Stephanie Klein-Davis | The Roanoke Times

Kristin Bringewatt, with the Roanoke County Community Youth Program at St. John’s Episcopal Church and a volunteer with Roanoke County Fire & Rescue, studies the framed exhibit of synthetic drugs being marketed around the country.

Gwen Mason, community outreach coordinator for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, talks about the dangers of synthetic drugs in the community Thursday night at the Roanoke Police Academy.

 

Gwen Mason, community outreach coordinator for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, talks about the dangers of synthetic drugs in the community Thursday night at the Roanoke Police Academy.

Now police and prevention officers play catch-up.

Government agencies across the Roanoke Valley joined forces Thursday to host two simultaneous seminars aimed at raising awareness of synthetic drugs.

The meetings took place less than a month after a new state law went into effect, making illegal a slew of chemical compounds often found in such drugs. And while authorities have taken advantage of the new law by collecting more than $105,000 worth of the drugs from local vendors who voluntarily relinquished their goods, policing on the local level is still a fight against the tide.

The landscape of the synthetic drug market constantly changes, so much that Virginia lawmakers might illegalize one drug only to find another — with a new chemical makeup — has cropped up in its place. And until the state legislature bans the replacement, authorities carry a heavier burden of proving a distributor is selling illegally, and with criminal intent.

For authorities looking to shut down sources of such drugs, the battle can get lost in legalities, legal experts and authorities said.

Federal authorities, such as the Drug Enforcement Administration, can charge people who distribute substances that mimic the effects of already illegal drugs, but the DEA limits the number of cases it takes on to focus on significant traffickers in an area, authorities have said.

For local police organizing to combat synthetic drug distribution, the effort continues to be a fight to keep their heads above water. The new Virginia law aids agencies temporarily, but with chemists constantly changing the formulas of drugs, local police will again be left waiting for the legislature to add more chemical compounds to the banned list.

Tim Carden, the resident agent with the DEA, said that in the past several weeks authorities approached eight local stores selling the synthetic drugs and asked them to stop and surrender the products.

“They were very cooperative,” Carden said.

Concerned residents, alongside educators and government employees, attended both seminars, held simultaneously at the Roanoke Police Academy and the South County Library.

Many came familiar with the street names of the synthetic drugs. Amped, Vanilla Sky and Ivory Wave are all available through the Internet and at some local tobacconists and convenience stores.

James Simmons, 18, of Roanoke County, attended the South County Library meeting.

“I thought it was interesting because I saw it on the news,” Simmons said. “I came to learn. I’ve seen Kryptonite in the store, in Richmond.”

On the other side of Roanoke, at the police academy, Harrel Thompson attended the meeting with his family.

“It’s a serious problem,” Thompson said. “I don’t understand why people do that to start with.”

Roanoke County police Lt. M.L. Williams told the library crowd that police see use of the drugs across a wide band of ages and socioeconomic spheres.

A detective with the Roanoke police drug unit estimated the city responded to 95 incidents involving synthetic drugs since January, though there is no way to conclusively prove that finding, he said. In many cases, such drugs won’t appear on field or urine tests.

Gwen Mason, an outreach coordinator with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, said the long-term effects of such drugs remain a mystery, another reason to stay away from them.

“It’s Russian roulette on what it’s going to do to you,” Mason said.

And at prices that run between $20 and $40 apiece, the risk of danger increases, said prevention specialists such as Rene Cox.

Cox, who works with New River Valley Community Services, said she thinks teenagers are attracted to the drugs because they are accessible.

“It’s cheap, no age limit,” Cox said. “You can get it in convenience stores. Sadly it’s just part of our community.”

 

Roanoke Public Libraries will host a series of seminars in coming weeks to educate the public about synthetic drugs in the community and how police are tackling distribution. Meetings are scheduled to take place at several branches.

>> 6 p.m. Tuesday, July 24 – Downtown Main Library on Jefferson Street in Roanoke

>> 6 p.m. Wednesday, July 25 – Williamson Road Library

>> 6 p.m. Monday, July 30 —  Jackson Park Library

>> 6 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 14 – Raleigh Court Library

>> 6 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 15 – Melrose Library

>> 6 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 16 — Gainsboro Library