Don’t Mistake “Bath Salts” for bath salts

The term “bath salts” no longer refers to something that will keep you clean. Apparently, a new street drug dons the same term as the relaxing salts one might bathe in. But make no mistake, the drug is anything far from relaxing. In fact, the drug has been implicated in the cannibalistic episode in Miami on May 26, 2012 in which a naked Rudy Eugene was found attacking homeless victim Ronald Poppo by chewing off portions of flesh from his face.
Eugene has since been nicknamed the Miami Zombie and the incident has jokingly been referred to as the beginning of the Zombie apocalypse. However, the incident really is far from funny (especially since I have an irrational fear of zombies). Any drug that can cause a cannibalistic outburst in someone is quite worthy of vigilant attention.
“Bath Salts” obtained its name when if first emerged on the scene and, according to a report from the NY Daily News, would be sold legally in convenient stores under the guise of bath salts, plant food or insect repellent and labeled “not for human consumption”. The drug, also known as “Vanilla Sky”, “Bliss”, “Cloud Nine” and “Purple Rain” (to name a few) is an amphetamine that can cause hallucinations and violent outbursts.
Much like pseudoephedrine, a component, of methamphetamines, the DEA has placed a ban on three chemicals, 3,4-Dimethylmethcathinone (3,4-DMMC) or mephedrone, MDPV and methylone, used to make the drug “bath salts”. Mephadrone is a man made chemical imitating the cathinone African Khat leaf that is chewed for a stimulant effect. However, the synthetic chemistry of this new designer drug has proven to be less innocuous than that of the African plant.
In April of 2010 when the ingestion of the drug seemed to be on the rise, The Telegraph reported:
Dr. John Thompson, a clinical toxicologist from the University of Cardiff, says, “What’s happened with amphetamines is that people have taken the basic structure and modified it, and by modifying the molecule they’ve affected how the drugs work. The evidence at the moment is that cathinones are very similar. The differences depend on how each drug affects the neurotransmitters – there’s a suggestion that these cathinones last longer than amphetamines”.
However, those taking the once legal substance have experienced far more intense effects than that of typical amphetamines. Since use of the new street drug has risen, so have emergency department visits recorded in 45 states. A report by the CDC notes that from March 22, 2011 to April 6, 2011 poison control centers had already received five times the amount of calls than that of the previous year.
Reports of psychotic hallucinations and violent outbursts have risen due to the substance. Several have been rumored to overdose, cause harm to themselves or others or even kill themselves. One man was reported to jump off a bridge into oncoming traffic and another woman reportedly so viciously scratched her face that she had to seek emergency care.
When this drug first became popular in 2010, people were speculating whether it was necessary to ban. Those who recreationally used the drug swore a ban was unnecessary because the high was milder than that of illegal drugs such as cocaine or MDMA (see Telegraph article). Others claimed that a potential ban was politically driven and that there was no sound evidence that it had caused harm or death to its users. However, I speculate the lack of evidence could merely be that this drug is new and its effects not well known. Just because there is a lack of evidence does not mean it’s safe.
As more time passes and we have more exposure to the effects of the drug, it appears that the case is quite opposite. And here I naively thought people used drugs as a means of escapism from the drag reality can be. Apparently, taking a drug like bath salts will submerge you into a self-induced nightmare.
Yet, interestingly enough, a doctor in the UK suggests that banning psychoactive drugs such as LSD, MDMA and mephedrone can hinder progress in neurology research. A former government advisor for Britain and a professor of neuropsychopharmacology, Dr. David Nutt (am I the only one who sees the irony in his last name?) suggested that outlawing psychedelics has adversely affected progress in studying and understanding the complex mechanisms of the brain (Reuters).
Dr. Nutt brings up an interesting point; drugs are often derivatives or synthetics of compounds that occur naturally on earth. For many centuries, various cultures have used the natural versions of a variety of drugs for healing purposes. I’m thinking this may be a topic I will explore further in a future article.
Drug Bans Hamper Brain Research