Archive for Friday, July 27, 2012

Many drugs remain legal after ‘bath salts’ ban

July 27, 2012


— People are inventing so many new 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 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.

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.

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.

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.


Liberal 5 years, 4 months ago

The results of a permissive anything goes society. Set standards of behavior and acceptability and this will go away. Letting the counter-culture have it's way the last 50 years has left us morally bankrupt (not talking about religious morality). What once was shocking is now common place.

On the other hand, if they would have legalized pot 40 years ago, then the much of the taboo would have diminished and there would not have been as large a drive to create an un-natural high.

The truth is the war on drugs is a failure and it will always remain a failure.

Currahee 5 years, 4 months ago

Or maybe if people didn't need to get high to feel good about their worthlessness and actually get jobs, we wouldn't be having this problem.

greenworld 5 years, 4 months ago

The truth is once people can no longer use bath salts they will go find a toad outside and eat it and hallucinate. So then what outlaw the use of eating toads. ha

ashter87 5 years, 4 months ago

Its not the war on drugs that has failed. the fact of the matter is if they would legalize the harmless plant called Marijuana we would honestly not be having this problem right now. the main reason most people are buy this dangerous substitute (and i mean bath salts to call herbal incense dangerous is retarded) is that we have to buy marijuana illegally. Why? there is now a legal substitute so forgive me if i want to get a little high and NOT have to worry about the DEA, FBI, or local law enforcement knocking on my door. the simple fact is if you legalized marijuana there would be no need for bath salts. people would buy WEED and be taxed for it generating more revenue... but ive blasted this point to death and no one seems to give a crap.

Kathy Theis-Getto 5 years, 4 months ago

Oh, but it is the war on drugs that brings us to this point. If all you white folks smoking pot back in the day hadn't started listening to jazz, the blues, and rock and roll, we would see a different effect.

Currahee 5 years, 4 months ago

Oh waahh wahhh waahh, I'm so sick of hearing not legalizing MJ is the problem. People will use cocaine or meth and not use MJ- what then for these people? Go buy your drugs and don't forget, also support on the crap that's going on in Mexico because of your addiction.

pizzapete 5 years, 4 months ago

The government should try reverse psychology on these kids using bath salts. They should make some commercials with someone like Mitt Romney or Herman Cain endorsing the use of bath salts as a cool way to get high. Kids would see the commercials, realize it wasn't cool anymore, and stop using them.

christiangirl93 5 years, 4 months ago

These fake drugs are not even close to as dangerous as real drugs. In Florida that man who ate that bums face off, for weeks the Florida cops claimed he was on "bath salts" but after the autopsy he wasn't on them. Law enforcement doesn't want anyone to have a fun time. That is the bottom line.

Stuart Evans 5 years, 4 months ago

in the article, they mentioned that most of these bath salts will not turn up in any drug tests. These are a series of unknown chemicals thrown together by anyone with a half-hearted understanding of chemistry, and a complete disregard for what those chemicals do to the human body. These are far worse than "real drugs"; far worse than marijuana, cocaine and heroin. We at least know what those substances do to our bodies.

Currahee 5 years, 4 months ago

Is your claim proven from scientific evidence? Or did you just make that sentence up?

ottawaway 5 years, 4 months ago

Yeah, wait untill you get ahold of the wrong 1 like my son.

Liberty275 5 years, 4 months ago

It is on CNN. Evidently he was a pothead. Must have been wicked munchies.

"(CNN) -- The naked Florida man who chewed off the face of another man last month in a zombie-like cannibal attack used marijuana but not "bath salts" as police had suspected, authorities said Wednesday."

Flap Doodle 5 years, 4 months ago

"..Where's the "new laws" banning guns?..." The Democrats remember getting spanked by American voters after the Brady Bill passed in 1994. Career politicians aren't eager to be turned out of office.

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