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U.S. Lawmakers Seeking Psychoactive Bath Salts Ban

Posted Feb 11 2011 11:25am

Should certain brands of bath salts be banned as narcotics?

Although legal in most jurisdictions, the bath salt packets marketed under brand names such as "Ivory Wave" and "Vanilla Sky" contain ingredients including mephedrone and methylenedioxypyrovalerone .    Since the packets carry warning labels describing the contest as "not safe for human consumption", they are not subject to federal regulation.  Following hundreds of incidents nationwide involving bath salt consumption over the past several years, formal bans on the selling of  implicated bath salt products have already gone into effect in the states of Kentucky, Florida, Louisiana, and North Dakota, among others. 

New York Senator Charles Schumer has proposed a bill to make bath salts a federally controlled substance. In  a February 1 statement, Senator Schumer stated that "These so-called bath salts contain ingredients that are nothing more than legally sanctioned narcotics, and they are being sold cheaply to all comers, with no questions asked, at store counters around the country.  The longer we wait to ban the substance, the greater risk we put our kids in,  These so-called bath salts are dangerous drugs masquerading as a harmless product. They offer a cheap and deadly high, and we need to move immediately to get them off the shelves."  

Officials at the Office of National Drug Control Policy have reported that bath salt intoxication can result in hallucinations, paranoia, suicidal thoughts, and even death in some recent cases.  Mimicking the effects of cocaine and LSD, the variable chemical content of the bath salt products sold can often have unpredictable results despite their popularity as a source of legal "highs".  The versatile nature of the bath salts means that they can be ingested in a variety of ways including snorting, injecting, smoking, or eating.   In the first month of 2011 alone, there have been 248 bath salt-related calls to poison centres nationwide (up from 291 calls in all of 2010).  Hospitalizations, suicides, and cases of criminal assault relating to bath salt intoxication have also been reported.   

Emergency room physicians treating patients admitted for mephedrone and methlenedioxypyrovalerone intoxication have reported on the severe nature of the psychosis presented.  Use of sedatives such as Valium have had little success in some cases.  Mark Ryan, director of the Louisiana Poison Center has commented that ""If you take the very worst of some of the other drugs -- LSD and Ecstasy with their hallucinogenic-delusional type properties, PCP with extreme agitation, superhuman strength and combativeness, as well as the stimulant properties of cocaine and meth -- if you take all the worst of those and put them all together this is what you get. It's ugly".   Although the ban in Louisiana has had some success in reducing calls relating to bath salt ingestion, Ryan has noted that calls are resuming.  Given that the products are still legally available in other states, users often circumvent bans through online vendors and interstate shipping. 

Despite calls for federal regulation, it may take years for a comprehensive nationwide ban to go into effect.

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