The DEA is laying down the law. Over the past few months, there has been a growing use of, and interest in, synthetic stimulants sold under the guise of “bath salts” or “plant food”. Marketed under names such as “Ivory Wave”, “Purple Wave”, “Vanilla Sky” or “Bliss”, these products are comprised of a class of chemicals perceived as mimics of cocaine, LSD, MDMA, and/or methamphetamine. This week the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is using its emergency scheduling authority to temporarily control these products stating an imminent hazard to the public.

Users of these types of products have reported impaired perception, reduced motor control, disorientation, extreme paranoia, and violent episodes.

DEA Administrator Michele M. Leonhart stated:

“This imminent action by the DEA demonstrates that there is no tolerance for those who manufacture, distribute, or sell these drugs anywhere in the country, and that those who do will be shut down, arrested, and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. DEA has made it clear we will not hesitate to use our emergency scheduling authority to control these dangerous chemicals that pose a significant and growing threat to our nation.”

The ban will focus on three synthetic stimulants, namely Mephedrone, methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV) and Methylone, which can be snorted to obtain a speedy high.

The DEA continues in a statement:

“This action was necessary to protect the public from the imminent hazard posed by these dangerous chemicals. Except as authorized by law, this action will make possessing and selling these chemicals or the products that contain them illegal in the U.S. for at least one year while the DEA and the United States Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) further study whether these chemicals should be permanently controlled.”

These products have become increasingly popular, particularly among teens and young adults, and are sold at a variety of retail outlets, in head shops and over the Internet. However, they have not been approved by the FDA for human consumption or for medical use, and there is no oversight of the manufacturing process.

Mephedrone, first synthesized and reported in a French academic journal in 1929, didn’t appear on the designer drug market until 2003, when an underground chemist named Kinetic rediscovered and published the formula on the website The Hive (the site shut down in 2004). It’s been banned in numerous places, including Israel and Europe.

MDPV has reportedly been sold as a “research chemical” since 2008. It has been banned in Finland, Denmark, and Sweden. Neither compound is currently a federally controlled substance in the United States, which makes “bath salts” containing them legal to buy and sell but far from perfectly safe.

The long-term physical and psychological effects of use are unknown but potentially quite severe. Known side effects of snorting bath salts include increased heart rate and chest pain, agitation and paranoia, dizziness and vomiting, and profuse sweating.

In the last six months, DEA has received an increasing number of reports from poison centers, hospitals and law enforcement regarding products containing one or more of these chemicals. Thirty-three states have already taken action to control or ban these or other synthetic stimulants.

The Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984 amends the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) to allow the DEA Administrator to temporarily schedule an abused, harmful, non-medical substance in order to avoid an imminent hazard to public safety while the formal rule-making procedures described in the CSA are being conducted.

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Written by Sy Kraft