Incidents Involving Misuse of Bath Salts Escalating in ERs, Poison Control Centers
Poison control centers in the United States saw a twenty-fold increase in the number of people calling them about bath salt poisoning last year. Police and hospital personnel are reporting similarly large increases in bizarre incidents of people abusing bath salts as hallucinatory drugs.
The bath salts involved are not the kind you put in your bathtub. Made mostly in India and China, they contain manmade chemicals related to khat, an organic stimulant used in East African and Arab countries but illegal in the USA. These chemicals are similar to ones in synthetic marijuana, and can cause psychotic breaks with reality in users, who usually snort, smoke or inject the salts. The effects can last for months.
“If you take the worst attributes of meth, coke, PCP, LSD and ecstasy and put them together, that’s what we are sometimes seeing,” said Mark Ryan, director of the Louisiana Poison Control Center.
Dr. Jeffrey Narmi, an emergency room doctor in Pennsylvania, said some who show up for treatment in his facility have to be admitted to psychiatric wards.
“These people are completely disconnected from reality and in a very bad place,” he said.
Police sometimes have trouble subduing people under the influence of these drugs, even if they use Tasers and other extreme means. One man stabbed a priest in a monastery, another jumped into traffic, and a woman scratched herself “to pieces.” A former Rutgers University student is now accused of killing his 22-year-old girlfriend in a brutal way after using bath salts.
Bath salts usually are sold in 50 milligram packets for $25 to $50 each. Regular bath salts cost only about $2 a pound.
“Nobody is paying that price to sprinkle in a tub,” said John Soprano, regional director of the state Office of Attorney General’s Bureau of Narcotics in Pennsylvania. “It’s not making anyone look or feel younger.”
Bath salts are illegal in 28 states but widely sold over the Internet. New York Senator Charles Schumer has introduced legislation called the “Combating Dangerous Synthetic Stimulants Act,” which, if passed, would make bath salts a Schedule 1 controlled substance, illegal to sell or manufacture in the USA.