Popularity of “Bath Salts” Exploding

“Bath salts” are exploding in popularity around the country, and alarming health and law enforcement officials, the Star Tribune reports. The synthetic drugs are inexpensive, easy to find and sometimes mistakenly perceived as a mostly harmless alternative to other drugs.

On September 7, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) announced it is temporarily banning three synthetic stimulants that are sold as bath salts. The ban makes it illegal to possess and sell these chemicals or the products that contain them. The newspaper reports at least 30 states have already banned bath salt chemicals, but they remain widely available on the Internet.

Bath salts are marketed under names such as “Ivory Wave,” “Purple Wave,” “Vanilla Sky” or “Bliss.” The drugs mimic the effects of cocaine, LSD, Ecstasy and/or methamphetamine. According to the DEA, users have reported impaired perception, reduced motor control, disorientation, extreme paranoia and violent episodes. Bath salts have become increasingly popular among teens and young adults.

According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, calls to poison centers about exposures to bath salts has dramatically increased, from a total of 303 last year to 4,137 in the first seven months of 2011.

Emergency room doctors and law enforcement officers are grappling with bath salt users who are extremely agitated and delusional. Sometimes they are violent.

Mark Ryan, director of a poison control center in Louisiana, told the newspaper bath salts “came on like a freight train.” He observed the drugs often seem to cause worse hallucinations than LSD, and in some cases give people the extreme strength of PCP. He noted many more users have severe effects compared with other drugs. “It’s not like it’s just a bad drug, it’s like a superbad drug,” he said.

The newspaper estimates bath salts have been confirmed or suspected in more than 15 deaths nationwide.

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