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Bath salts abused as drug

Published: Thursday, February 10, 2011

Updated: Thursday, February 10, 2011 08:02

Highly hallucinogenic stimulants are being marketed as bath salts and sold in gas stations and conve

Graphic by Nick Kneer / IC

Highly hallucinogenic stimulants are being marketed as bath salts and sold in gas stations and convenience stores around the country. The salts can produce an experience similar to using LSD.

Bath salts are no longer being used as an aid to help someone's grandmother ease her muscles while she soaks in warm water.

At Ivory-Wave.com, gas stations and convenience stores around the country people can purchase "legal highs" being marketed as "bath salts," unless they live in the United Kingdom or Louisiana where the fake bath salts have been banned.

Sold under names including Ivory Wave, Vanilla Sky, Bliss and Hurricane Charlie, the salts are reported to be highly hallucinogenic stimulants and provide the user with experiences similar to what they can experience when using cocaine, LSD and ecstasy.

Users can snort, smoke or inject the bath salts, which contain synthetic stimulants including mephedrone and MDPV which can cause chest pains, increased blood pressure, extreme paranoia and delusion among others, according to White House Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske.

"They're kind of like a synthetic cocaine, but the problem with this is that it's a man-made stimulant so we don't really know all of what's in it," said Alcohol Tobacco and Other Prevention Specialist Alexis Blavos. "The FDA can't regulate it because it's being sold as a bath salt."

The drug was banned in the UK after being thought to have caused several deaths.

UT Chief of Police Jeff Newton said there have been no reported cases of "bath salt" incidents at UT.

"It's definitely on our radar though and I anticipate we will be looking more closely at it in the near future," Newton said. "I have heard that it has resulted in some violent outcomes by the user."

In Mansfield, Ohio police discovered a man "swimming" down the road claiming the Mexican mafia was shooting at him while he was high on one of the salts.

A man in Mississippi took a skinning knife to his face and stomach repeatedly while under the influence of the bath salts.

Neil Brown, who survived the self attacks, told the Washington Post he had tried "every drug from heroin to crack and was so shaken by terrifying hallucinations that he wrote to one Mississippi paper urging people to stay away from the bath salts."

The salts were banned in Florida after a woman tried to behead her grandmother with a machete while high on the substance.

The fake bath salts are also banned in Louisiana.

Blavos said any time a substance is marketed for consumption and has a "not for human consumption" label on its packaging, there is cause for alarm.

"It says not for human consumption, yet they're marketing it as a legal high," she said. "[The Ivory Wave website calls the product] legal high wholesale. Human consumption isn't just eating. It's smoking it, snorting it; any way of consuming it into your system."

Regardless of the legal high wholesale tag Ivory Wave sells its products under, Student Conduct Officer Tracci Johnson said people should never use something it is not intended for, such as smoking a bath salt.

"Part of the problem with these types of substances, when people abuse things in a way that they're not intended, is they haven't been tested in humans," she said. "People have bad reactions when they use them for purposes they're not intended for. While [students] think it might be something they want to try, it's just not a good idea because you don't know how it will interact with your system."

Though the bath salts are sold legally in most states if a student is caught smoking or injecting it on campus, they can have action taken against them under the student code of conduct, according to Johnson.

"It's a legal substance when you use it as a bath salt," Johnson said. "But when you use it as a drug, it becomes an entirely different thing. If someone smokes a substance that is not intended for consumption it's a violation and can be processed."

Blavos said she fears what can happen if a teenager uses the substance since it is legal and easily obtainable.

"It's kind of in your genes when you're between 12 and 18 to experiment," she said. "But sometimes young people will rebel in unsafe ways. When you're like 15 or 16 and you don't know where to buy marijuana, you know you can go to the local drug store and buy a bath salt."

Blavos said the bath salts are obviously marketed towards the younger generation because "you're not going to see anyone in their 30s saying, ‘hey, I'm going to go smoke a bath salt.'"

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