Hospitals throughout the USA are having to cope with a growing number of people coming in high on bath salts, which can be used as recreational drugs. These substances can be smoked, injected or snorted and may have dangerous long-term harmful effects. According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC), American poison centers have receives 2,237 calls related to toxic substances that are marketed as “bath salts” this year so far, compared to 302 calls in 2010.

The AAPCC says the problem is expected to continue to grow. It adds that the toxic products can cause accelerated heart rate, hallucinations, agitation, hypertension (raised blood pressure), delusions and extreme paranoia.

Emergency department staff say that people who come in under the influence of these substances are usually high and violent and need to be hospitalized overnight. In some cases they require psychiatric help because they are so disconnected from reality.

Louisiana Poison Center director, Mark Ryan, says the products are the worst he has seen during his two decades at the poison center.

Ryan said:

“These products create a very severe paranoia that we believe could cause users to harm themselves or others.”

The products are sold through various outlets, including head shops, gas stations and online. They are sold under several names, including:

  • Bloom
  • Blue Silk
  • Cloud Nine
  • Hurricane Charlie
  • Ivory Wave
  • Lunar Wave
  • Ocean Snow
  • Red Dove
  • Scarface
  • Vanilla Sky
  • White Lightning
  • Zoom

Ryan said experts have observed that these substances trigger intense craving, similar to those found among methamphetamine users.

AAPCC scientists believe the “bath salts” contain MDPV (Methylenedioxypyrovalerone). MDPV is not approved in the USA for medical use.

Reports have also come in of insect repellants and plant fertilizers containing MDPV being marketed.

Even though the products, which usually come in powdered form and have “not for human consumption” written on their packaging, the majority of emergency center cases are of people who have snorted it. There is one reported case of a male who injected himself.

28 US states, mainly in the South and Midwest, as well as New York, New Jersey, and Maine have banned bath salts. An outbreak of bath salt usage as a recreational drug resulted in a ban in the United Kingdom.

Anecdotal cases of people high on bath salts in US media include a man who climbed a flagpole and then jumped into moving traffic. In another case, a woman scratched herself to death. One man went into a monastery and killed a priest with a knife.

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Written by Christian Nordqvist