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Drug Czar Issues 'Bath Salts' Warning

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The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) issued a nationwide warning about the dangers of legal synthetic drugs often marketed as bath salts while various states moved to ban them, the Associated Press (AP) reported Feb. 2.

The powdered stimulants – sold online, in gas stations and drug paraphernalia stores as bath salts and plant food under names like “Ivory Wave” — are said to produce highs like cocaine, ecstasy, and methamphetamines. Active ingredients include 3,4-methylenedioxypyrovalerone (known as MPDV) and mephedrone. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved them for human consumption, but they have not been banned by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). 

White House drug czar Gil Kerlikowske said the so-called “bath salts” can cause “chest pains, increased blood pressure and heart rate, agitation, hallucinations, extreme paranoia and delusions,” according to the AP. So far this year, 251 calls have been made about them to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, compared to 236 similar calls for all of last year.

“They pose a serious threat to the health and well-being of young people and anyone who uses them,” said Kerlikowske.

Meanwhile, Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., has introduced a bill that would put the chemicals on the federal list of controlled substances, Reuters reported Jan. 31.

“These so-called bath salts contain ingredients that are nothing more than legally sanctioned narcotics, and they are being sold cheaply to all comers, with no questions asked, at store counters around the country,” Schumer said. 

The European Union, Australia, Canada, Israel, as well as several states — Florida, Hawaii, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, New York, North Dakota, and West Virginia – have already banned the substances or are considering legislation to do so. 

In West Virginia, lawmakers were also moving to ban any future variations of the synthetic drugs, according to the Herald-Dispatch Jan. 31.

“We've tried to use generic language to cover those situations where a knowledgeable person could change the formulation on new designer drugs. As such, with the wording, that will be covered under the code as well,” Delegate Don Perdue (D-Wayne) explained.

“We may not be able to burst the balloon, but we can at least push on it and deflate it a little to the point where it's less threatening,” he said.

The DEA is reviewing data on abuse of the synthetic stimulants but does not currently have plans to ban them. Spokesman Rusty Payne recommended that people avoid the drugs.

“Just because something is not illegal does not mean it's safe,” he said.

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