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Bath Salts: An Investigative Report

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Bath salts are a relatively recent drug. Mephedrone, a key ingredient in most bath salts was first discovered in 1929. It was rediscovered in 2003, when an underground chemist named Kinetic published the formula on the site, The Hive. Bath salts are also known as “Charge +”, “Bolivian Bath”, “Dusted”, “Mint Mania”, “Sextacy”, “Snow Leopard”, “Zambia”, “Route 69”, “Ocean Burst”, “Special Gold”, “Mojo Diamond”, “Hurricane Charlie” and “Mad Cow” among other names. They are sold as a bath accessory.

There is a distinction between real bath salts and the dangerous drugs. A good way to spot the difference is that the drug version is usually a fine powder, rather than the crystalline structures of true bath salts. Another difference is the price. Twenty ounces of real bath salts sell for about $7 on Amazon. A comparable amount of the drug version sells for $120! Real bath salts are poured into a bath and release pleasing aromas. Real bath salts that contain magnesium sulfate (Epsom salts) can be used to treat sore muscles.

Use of bath salts has increased significantly since its inception. Poison control centers took over 1,200 calls in 2011 regarding "bath salts". That is a more than 400% increase from all calls received concerning "bath salts" in 2010.

Because the designer drug is released with the label, “Not for Human Consumption” they are not regulated under the DEA or FDA. This means that kilograms of “Bath Salts” are shipped into the United States from manufacturers in China and India legally. Furthermore, lots of home manufacturers operate on a small scale and distribute locally. It is widely available online as well.

Bath salts differ in their chemical makeup. They are usually designed to mimic the effects of cocaine, meth and ectsasy. They utilize amphetamines like mephedrone, methylone and methylenedioxypyrovalerone. They can be up to 100 times more potent than the illegal drugs they are mimicking. Similarly to ecstasy, users feel a heightening of the senses and increased sexual arousal. Similarly to stimulants like cocaine, users feel euphoria and increased energy.
Aphetamine affects the neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine. Amphetamine stimulates the production of the transmitters. Aphetamine also prevents the uptake of these neurotransmitters by the nervous system. This surplus of dopamine and norepinephrine is responsible for people’s erratic behavior lasting long after the “high”. User experience a change in motivation. Amphetamine replaces the urge to find pleasure in food, sex or sleep. Amphetamine is addictive. Getting the drug becomes the primary concern of users and trumps all other primal needs. Withdrawl causes depression, anxiety and excessive sleeping. Amphetamine also inhibits appetite so some abuse it as a diet supplement.

The effects of taking bath salts can include agitation, extreme panic, tachycardia, deep paranoia, vomiting, dizziness, heart-attack, hallucinations, chest pain, increased pulse, high blood pressure, and suicidal thinking or behavior. One man in Mississippi skinned himself alive while under the influence. In West Virginia, a man raped and killed his neighbors’ goat, while wearing women’s lingerie. Elsewhere, a 22 year old man beat his grandmother near to death. In Miami, Rudy Eugene was rumored to be on bath salts while he stripped himself naked and ate a homeless man’s face off. It took 5 shots to kill him.

There are almost no studies on bath salts because of how recent of a drug it is. Therefore, there is little information on the process of addiction and the physiological response. Furthermore, bath salts differ tremendously in their composition so they affect people differently.

Bath salts can be taken by snorting, smoking, injecting or even eating. Addicts are reported to be emaciated, paranoid and sleepless. Psychological dependency revolves around users need to heighten the euphoric effects of the drug.

Most people who use illicit drugs use them socially. However, there is little research on bath salts being used socially. Because of the nature of the high and the side effects of violence it is doubtful that is used in “hangouts”. Experimentation with bath salts usually comes from users yearning for a “new” kind of high. It has become popular in the rural south and among the rich and glamorous. High profile users who have had subsequent breakdowns because of their use include technology mogul John McAfee and Universal Pictures executive, Brian Mulligan.

On a Sunday in May, 2012, Brian Mulligan approached officers on a Sunday Morning in Glendale. For 11 minutes he partook in a paranoid conversation with the police. He asked them if they were flying helicopters overhead and then divulged that he had been abusing bath salts. Mulligan’s mental wellbeing quickly declined. Two days later cops found the 53 year old, married, father of two trying to break into cards in a poor neighborhood, far from where he lived. When police approached him he snarled and attacked them.

This story helps illustrates the effects of bath salts. Users lose judgment and become disengaged from societal norms. They become violent.

Massachusetts passed legislation making bath salts illegal in August 2012. They are officially a Class C illegal substance. There are five classifications, A, B, C, D, and E. A, being the most dangerous including drugs like heroin to class E which includes prescription drugs. The penalties for distribution, possession and consumption of the drugs get decreasingly strict as the letters go up in the alphabet. Anyone convicted of possessing bath salts can face up to a year in jail, a $1,000 fine, or both. Anyone convicted of distributing bath salts can face five years in jail, a $5,000 fine, or both. There have already been arrests in Quincy, Hingham, Abington and Connecticut. The only problem with laws regulating synthetic drugs is that manufacturers can slightly alter the chemical composition and skirt the law.

Obama signed a federal ban on bath salts in July of 2012. Laws like these are hard to enforce and do little to stop the spread of illicit drugs. Particularly bath salts because of their prevalence online.



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