By Cathy Taylor
Cases involving bath salts are on the rise in Michigan, according to Osceola County Undersheriff Justin Halladay, and are rapidly replacing meth as the “drug of choice” for many of the area’s young people.
“Purple Wave,” “Cloud Nine,” “Vanilla Sky,” and “Bliss” are just a few of the street names given to these designer drugs, more commonly referred to as bath salts, and have nothing in common with the bath salts that most of us put in our bathtubs.
Effects from ingesting bath salts range from agitation, hallucinations, chest pain to suicidal thoughts. Visual symptoms include dilated pupils, involuntary muscle movements, and rapid heartbeat with elevated blood pressure.
While there are many variations of the drug out there, most bath salt concoctions contain various synthetic chemicals that are similar to those found in amphetamines. Users snort it, smoke it, shoot it and mix it with food and drinks. It can be administered orally or rectally and some have even claimed it to be a strong aphrodisiac.
It is presumed that most “bath salts” are MDPV, or methylenedioxypyrovalerone, a stimulant psychoactive drug that for many years could be purchased legally and used for elevating energy levels and mental alertness. MDPV cannot be smelled by detection dogs and will not be found in a typical urinalysis panel.
In the summer of 2012, the Synthetic Drug Abuse Prevention Act made it illegal to possess, use or distribute many of the chemicals used to make bath salts, including MDVP. The law covers about 26 of the various chemicals used in bath salts production, but does not begin to cover them all.
All variations of bath salts are currently illegal in forty-one states, including Michigan, with most of the chemicals used in making bath salts under federal control and regulation. But despite the steps that law enforcement agencies are taking to rid the streets of the drug, its popularity and widespread availability continues to increase.
According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, the number of calls to the centers concerning bath salts rose from approximately 300 in 2010 to 6,138 in 2011. Locally, Cadillac Mercy Hospital averages at least one bath salts related case per week in its emergency room.
Most of the bath salts circulating in Northern Michigan have been purchased on the Internet or have been manufactured by local drug users or dealers. Distributors are able to disguise the salts as everyday household products such as fertilizer or insect repellent.
According to Dr. Zane Horowitz, the medical director of the Oregon Poison Center, trying to enforce any drug laws involving bath salts may be difficult to accomplish given the difficulty of detecting the drug.
“There’s always an ongoing race between those trying to develop the technology to test for these chemicals and the street chemists who are trying to stay ahead of the law,” stated Horowitz.
“It’s almost impossible to keep up with the rapid spread of this particular type of drug and, unfortunately, the law won’t make this problem disappear,” stated Horowitz. “Drug makers will keep creating new combinations of illegal drugs at home and in illicit labs.”