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Bath Salts: A Continued Problem

Posted on July 26 2012

A little over a month and a half ago, we posted a blog regarding the synthetic designer drug bath salts and the affects it has on consumers. Much has changed in the legislation regarding these types of drugs since our post, but that hasn’t thwarted users, or sellers, from getting their hands on these chemical concoctions.

On July 10, 2012, President Obama signed a nationwide ban on the sale, production, or possession of nearly a dozen of the top used bath salts products. Many local communities have gone a step further and banned sale, production, or possession of any synthetic drugs within their jurisdiction. With all of this legislation going into effect, and vast amount of public knowledge of what these substances make people do (willingly or not), many are wondering why the problem doesn’t seem to be affected.

Mountainside Medical Equipment is located in Central New York, and bath salts usage has been gathering international attention, as it has become a tremendous problem in this area of the state. The “Dateline Australia” program recently paid a visit to the city of Utica Police Department to do a feature. Surrounding areas of Utica are also feeling the effects of bath salts users, with the random events of erratic behavior spreading into the suburb areas. Most of the suburb towns and villages already have bans against the drugs, but it isn’t slowing usage by any means. Cases continue to erupt on an almost daily basis, leading to training sessions for first responders, police, and medical personnel all over the region.

Bath salts are created in at-home chemical labs by people with vast knowledge on how each chemical will interact with other chemicals and affect the user. With the original bath salts products labeled under catchy names like “Vanilla Sky,” “Blue Silk,” or “Bayou,” now being banned, they simply changed the formula and called it something else. Designed to look like everyday consumer products, the products these drugs are usually listed as include “glass cleaner,” “toy cleaner,” and “plant food,” and even state Not for Human Consumption. Believe it or not, while these are all just words, they are the reason that the synthetic drugs have been, and can be, made available. Attorneys cannot prosecute users unless the product they are using states “for human consumption,” or says nothing at all, making the warnings on the packaging legal firewalls for the time being.

So, with the new ban in effect, and people being made aware of what the packaging says and how harmless the drugs are presented as, the epidemic should slow down, right?

No. With as easy as it was to originally bring bath salts out into the public, it will be just as easy to replace them. No sooner can one of these synthetic drugs be banned, another is already on its way out the door of a chemist’s home. The drugs are incredibly cheap to ship from overseas, and changing the packaging is simple. They can just use a computer to make a new graphic, change around some words and - voila! – a new drug is ready to be sent out into the public.

This is the problem facing authorities as they try to crack down on the rising trend of usage. Many of the chemicals in these drugs have been altered, making them harder to identify, and, thus, making it harder to ban the individual chemicals. As long as these synthetic substances are being created in private homes with little information on what is in them the whole situation will most likely remain difficult to control.

Hospitals all over are seeing massive increases in patients suffering from bath salts related symptoms. In addition, the American Association of Poison Control Centers have reported that 6,100 calls were made in 2011 regarding bath salts drugs, and over 1,700 calls had been taken in the first portion of 2012. Doctors are struggling to handle the influx of these cases and the severity of symptoms. Users can exhibit behaviors such as combativeness, hallucinations, and delirium. Many of these patients must be sedated, and some have had to bee given 10 to 20 times the dosage amount used during routine procedures. Even then, some patients will continue with the behaviors as soon as the sedatives wear off. While these doctors handle cases of person high on cocaine or methamphetamine (drugs that produce similar highs to that of bath salts), they are just what they say they are. Patients high on cocaine and methamphetamine give doctors an edge on treatment options because this is something they’ve experienced before. With bath salts the chemical combination changes so frequently that doctors are unable to pinpoint exactly what needs to be treated, and how, making these drug user cases very difficult.

The use of these designer and synthetic drugs is looking to be a problem for some time to come. It is not unreasonable to suspect that once the bath salts issue is finally under control, they will come out with something new and communities will most likely have to start from scratch again. Legislation will continue to pop-up and, with any hope, will make distribution more difficult, but it may be a long road to get there.

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