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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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.

Local police ‘bracing’ for bath salts in region


WEST BRIDGEWATER —
bathsalts.jpg
AP Photo/The Patriot-News, Chris Knight

Bath salts, in this case synthetic cocaine, are part of a new and highly dangerous generation of drugs that have begun to make an appearance locally.

If East Bridgewater Detective Michael Jenkins catches a suspect in town with the dangerous synthetic drug known as “bath salts,” he can’t criminally charge the person.

Jenkins said his only recourse is to cite the suspect with a misdemeanor under Massachusetts public health law, and issue a fine of $50 to $100.

This is despite a federal law signed by President Barack Obama on July 9 that outlaws synthetic drugs, including some chemicals found in bath salts.

“Our hands are kind of tied,” Jenkins said Monday. “Even though there’s a federal ban, state and local authorities have no jurisdiction over federal law. We’re not federal law enforcement officers.”

State lawmakers are hoping to change that.

For several months, lawmakers including state Sen. John Keenan, D-Quincy, and state Rep. George Ross, R-Attleboro, have been pushing for a state ban of bath salts. Keenan said he wants to make bath salts illegal in Massachusetts to avoid any ambiguities that may arise from different interpretations of the federal law.

“We need the same course of action here at the state level, that it’s made clear that in Massachusetts these substances are banned, that they’re not on the shelves,” Keenan said.

The ban was tacked on to another Senate bill co-authored by Keenan to monitor prescriptions for opiate painkillers. Ross first sponsored the bill to make bath salts a controlled substance after several constituents approached him.

Ross and Keenan are among state lawmakers who hope the bill passes before the end of the legislative session tonight.

“It’s very important,” Ross said. “I had a lot of people backing me up on it, law enforcement, health officials, parents of kids who were addicted.”

Bath salts, which are synthetic psychoactive drugs, have grown tremendously in popularity in recent years, sold under names such as “Spice” or “Vanilla Sky” in head shops, smoke shops and convenience stores.

On Thursday, the federal Drug Enforcement Administration announced it had seized more than $36 million in cash and arrested 91 people in a nationwide crackdown on synthetic drugs including bath salts and fake marijuana. Five million packets of synthetic drugs were seized.

Jenkins said that without a state ban “it is almost impossible” to enforce the new federal law in Massachusetts, unless it’s a collaborative effort with federal authorities on larger drug cases.

And local police expect to see more of it.

“We’re kind of bracing ourselves for it. It’s almost like the calm before the storm,” said West Bridgewater police Sgt. Tim Nixon, also a member of the WEB Major Crimes and Drug Task Force.

The drugs are considered so dangerous that in December, Abington police charged a local man with attempted manslaughter for selling them.

Jenkins, of East Bridgewater police, also said the federal law is a good start, but it “will not dramatically curb use of bath salts.”

“These drugs are constantly changing and the manufacturers will make a small chemical alteration to their formulas and they won’t fall under the law,” Jenkins said.

State lawmakers push for bath salt ban


If East Bridgewater detective Michael Jenkins catches a suspect in town with the dangerous synthetic drug known as “bath salts,” he can’t criminally charge the person.

Jenkins said his only recourse is to cite the suspect with a misdemeanor under Massachusetts public health law, and issue a fine of $50 to $100.

This is despite a federal law signed by President Barack Obama on July 9 that outlaws synthetic drugs, including some chemicals found in bath salts.

“Our hands are kind of tied,” Jenkins said Monday. “Even though there’s a federal ban, state and local authorities have no jurisdiction over federal law. We’re not federal law enforcement officers.”

State lawmakers are hoping to change that.

For several months, lawmakers including state Sen. John Keenan, D-Quincy, and state Rep. George Ross, R-Attleboro, have been pushing for a state ban of bath salts. Keenan said he wants to make bath salts illegal in Massachusetts to avoid any ambiguities that may arise from different interpretations of the federal law.

“We need the same course of action here at the state level, that it’s made clear that in Massachusetts these substances are banned, that they’re not on the shelves,” Keenan said.

The ban was tacked on to another Senate bill co-authored by Keenan to monitor prescriptions for opiate painkillers. Ross first sponsored the bill to make bath salts a controlled substance after several constituents approached him.

Ross and Keenan are among state lawmakers who hope the bill passes before the end of the legislative session tonight. Tuesday night.

“It’s very important,” Ross said. “I had a lot of people backing me up on it, law enforcement, health officials, parents of kids who were addicted.”

Bath salts, which are synthetic psychoactive drugs, have grown tremendously in popularity in recent years, sold under names such as “Spice” or “Vanilla Sky” in head shops, smoke shops and convenience stores.

A man in Miami was reportedly under the influence of bath salts in June when he attacked a homeless man, biting off pieces of his face and swallowing them.

The substance began showing up in the U.S. within the past two years and has been mostly unregulated.

On Thursday, the federal Drug Enforcement Administration announced it had seized more than $36 million in cash and arrested 91 people in a nationwide crackdown on synthetic drugs including bath salts and fake marijuana. Five million packets of synthetic drugs were seized.

Jenkins said that without a state ban “it is almost impossible” to enforce the new federal law in Massachusetts, unless it’s a collaborative effort with federal authorities on larger drug cases.

And local police expect to see more of it.

“We’re kind of bracing ourselves for it. It’s almost like the calm before the storm,” said West Bridgewater police Sgt. Tim Nixon, also a member of the WEB Major Crimes and Drug Task Force.

The drugs are considered so dangerous that in December, Abington police charged a local man with attempted manslaughter for selling them.

Jenkins, of East Bridgewater police, also  said the federal law is a good start, but it “will not dramatically curb use of bath salts.”

“These drugs are constantly changing and the manufacturers will make a small chemical alteration to their formulas and they won’t fall under the law,” Jenkins said.

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.

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.