Latest Drug Craze Is Bath Salts?!

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Authorities in several US states are considering banning the sale of "bath salts," which are apparently being snorted, smoked and injected for their intense hallucinatory effects. While this might sound fun, the hallucinations caused by ingesting the chemicals mephedrone and methylenedioxypyrovalerone, advertised as bath salts, are often accompanied by "paranoia, rapid heart rates and suicidal thoughts," the Associated Press's Sheila Byrd reports. One user, who slit his face and stomach repeatedly with a skinning knife while under the influence of the chemicals, told Byrd that "he had tried every drug from heroin to crack and was so shaken by terrifying hallucinations that he wrote one Mississippi paper urging people to stay away from the advertised bath salts." Another Mississippi woman is believed to have overdosed from ingesting the dangerous chemicals and "in Louisiana, the bath salts were outlawed by an emergency order after the state's poison center received more than 125 calls in the last three months of 2010 involving exposure to the chemicals."

This report has received a number of reactions, mostly contradictions to the AP's assertions from people who are more in-the-know about the bath salt craze.

  • Don't Be Fooled by the Report  Media Consortium blogger Lindsay Beyerstein explains the matter at The Huffington Post: for everyone who, after reading the AP article was excited to "go and blow your allowance at the Body Shop or the garden center, keep in mind that 'bath salt' and 'plant food' are just euphemisms that web-based head shops use to sell these amphetamine-like drugs, according to a 2010 report by the UK Council on the Misuse of Drugs."
  • What, Exactly, Is the Problem? Reason's Jacob Sullum is skeptical of Byrd's example of the Mississippi man who cut himself while high on bath salts, asking how common this type of reaction actually is. And, he wonders, if the only thing these chemicals have to offer is "a horrible trip" what exactly is generating "intense cravings" in its users?
Although Byrd, in the time-honored tradition of anti-drug propaganda disguised as journalism, leaps to causal conclusions and presents extreme cases as typical, that does not mean these drugs, which are not nearly as well studied as amphetamines and cocaine, pose no special hazards. But if they do, we can thank the drug laws for driving people to riskier replacements for illegal substances.

Others are shocked, and somewhat amused, that this is even a thing:

The biggest problem with snorting something you can buy at Walgreens is that because the chemicals are intended for relaxing, exfoliating purposes, they are in no way illegal. So the most law enforcement can do when they’re being attacked by a guy who thinks he’s fighting devils is charge him with disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor, and remind him that bath salts are for external use only.
  • The Agitator: "Buy your bath salts now. Looks like the drug warriors may ban them"

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.