Ivory Wave, Purple Wave, Vanilla Sky, White China, Lady Bubbles and Bliss are all among the many street names of a suddenly trending drug, otherwise known as…bath salts. Rudy Eugene, 31, the so-called “cannibal man” in Miami, who was fatally shot as he chewed on another man’s face in a gruesome attack over the weekend, is suspected to have been high on bath salts.
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Over the past few years, bath salt drug use has sparked thousands of calls to poison centers across the U.S.
The dangerous drug, which is banned in many states, but so far has no specific federal ban, is available on the street and also at many tobacco and drug paraphernalia shops. Bath salts, the drug’s benign name, belies its actual makeup — a toxic cocktail of the stimulants Methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV), mephedrone, and pyrovalerone. Law enforcement officials say that the mixture is packaged as the spa staple as a ruse, and that users snort it. The Drug Enforcement Agency groups bath salts with mescaline and ephedrine, while dealers market the drug as a replacement for cocaine or a synthetic form of the hallucinogen LSD.
Last year, citing an “imminent threat to public safety,” the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) made illegal the possession and sale of three of the chemicals commonly used to make bath salts — the synthetic stimulants mephedrone, MDPV, and methylone.
Bath Salt Dangers
• The drug can cause severe agitation, rapid heart rate, high blood pressure, paranoia and symptoms of psychosis, including hallucinations and delusions. The drug can also lead to overheating of the body, which is why so many users remove their clothing. Experts have compared the impervious-to-restraint effects of the bath salts drug to PCP or angel dust.
• Users of the drug experience hallucinations, lose touch with reality and can exhibit psychotic behavior. To call Eugene’s behavior erratic is an understatement: a biker discovered him on a highway ramp, totally naked and reportedly attacking Ronald Poppo, a 65-year-old homeless man from the area. When police arrived at the scene, Eugene allegedly refused to stop his attack and even growled at the officers. It is possible that bath salts could cause a person to behave in this manner.
• Bath salts do not show up immediately on most drug tests, and toxicology tests do not come back for several weeks.
In 2009, there were only two recorded cases, but by 2010, that number had jumped to 338. In 2011, the last year for which we have data, there were 911 reported instances of bath salt abuse. According to a CDC report of bath salt abuse, users not only experience psychological side effects, but physical ones as well. In fact, 91 percent of users had neurological damage, while 77 percent experienced cardiovascular damage and 49 percent had psychological difficulties associated with the drug. Those difficulties could be severe: 37 percent of the people who suffered mental health problems reported attempting suicide or having suicidal thoughts, related to bath salts. According to the CDC report, bath salts usually aren’t the only drug a person will use – most bath salts users also abuse other substances, like methamphetamines, cocaine and opiates, such as heroin.
“Addictive substances, whether they are bath salts, alcohol or other drugs, can have horrific and costly consequences. Sometimes these consequences can result from only one use; other times they are a result of the complex brain disease of addiction,” Susan E. Foster, vice president and director of policy research and analysis at The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University. “Together, risky use of addictive substances and addiction constitute our nation’s largest and most costly health problem.”