Dale: I just wanted it to stop. I had been up for probably 36 hours straight. I mean, my skin felt bad my heart rate was beating. I just wanted the feeling to stop. It kept going.
Justin: This is Dale, a recovering drug user in Florida. He didn’t want his real name or image used on air.
Dale: Looking back, it was probably pretty stupid. I figured it was safe because it was legal.
Justin: Ivory white. White dove. Euphoria. All names for a synthetic, or manmade, drug sold as bath salts in convenience stores, liquor and smoke shops and online. But they are not meant for your bathtub.
When you first tried the salts, you knew then and there that they weren’t just bath salts.
Dale: Absolutely. Absolutely.
Justin: How did you know?
Dale: The packaging it came in. The way the owner kind of smirked when he told me to try it. Told me I’d like it, and the fact that it smelled and tasted similar to the real thing.
So what do you mean by the real thing?
Dale: Cocaine. Powdered cocaine.
Justin: Bath salts are being used to mimic the highs of cocaine or meth, which is a highly addictive and an illegal drug. Side effects include extreme paranoia, hallucinations, suicidal thoughts, as well as chest pains, rapid heartbeat and high fever.
The Drug Enforcement Administration, or DEA, says the use of bath salts is on the rise. As of November 30, 2011, almost six thousand calls were received by poison control centers around the country about bath salts. That is up from just 303 in all of 2010.
What is in these bath salts that makes them so dangerous?
“When we’ve looked at what is contained in the bath salts, there is a variety of chemicals. The most common one is MDPV, and another is mephedrone.”
Justin: And the MDPV is very dangerous, right, from what I have read?
“Correct. Correct. It has a variety of health effects. The health effects can range from effects to the brain — now, initially, that stimulation might enhance concentration or alertness or increase energy, but that can quickly decompose into agitation, violence. Some people even have suicidal thoughts going with this.”
Justin: Several deaths and suicides have been linked to the drugs as well as violent outbursts where users high on bath salts have attacked, even killed, people around them. And some users still experience symptoms months after using the drugs.
So, if they are dangerous, how come bath salts have been sold legally in stores? Well, Dr. Jthundyvil says it has to do with how the makers of bath salts label and market the product.
Dr. Jthundyvil: It’s essentially a dishonest business. It’s bath salts, so they can get around the FDA laws and government regulations. If they advertise it as a dietary supplement, a vitamin, or something, they would have to go through that. But since they don’t, they skirt those laws and can sell it over the counter. And they cleverly write, ‘not for human consumption.’ But again, that’s very disingenuous when they do that. These were never intended to be bath salts.
Justin: While they are labeled ‘not for human consumption,’ more and more young people are consuming them. So far, 45 states have restricted, or banned, the sale of bath salts. And lawmakers in the House of Representatives recently voted to classify the chemicals compounds used in bath salts as a Schedule I drug similar to heroin.
But even with the House-passed ban, law officials report that dealers have found a way around the ban by replacing the illegal chemicals with chemicals that have not yet been banned.
So, why are you speaking out about bath salts now?
Dale: I just don’t want people to run around thinking it’s cool. I mean, it’s a drug. It’s more powerful than any drug out on the street. There’s nothing safe about it. There’s nothing cool about it.