There's a new drug craze sweeping the nation: bath salts.
Though the name might sound rather benign, these bath salts aren't the kind you pour into the tub for a relaxing soak after a long day or to soothe sore muscles. These so-called bath salts are for smoking, snorting and even injecting and complications from their illicit use is on the rise, The New York Times reported.
What exactly are bath salts? That question can be hard to answer. "The presumption is that most bath salts are MDPV, or methylenedioxypyrovalerone, although newer pyrovalerone derivatives are being made by illegal street chemists," emergency room doctor and medical director of the Oregon Poison Center Zane Horrowitz told WebMD about the drugs.
"Nobody really knows, because there is no way to test for these substances," he said.
Bath salts retail under names like "White Lightening," "8 Ballz," and "Lindsay." Both medical experts and users alike have compared the effects bath salts to popular street stimulants drugs like cocaine and methamphetamine, and Horrowitz told WebMD these drugs can produce a wide range of effects in users, including "agitation, paranoia, hallucinations, chest pain and suicidality."
Stoddard County, Mo., Sheriff Carl Hefner has seen methamphetamine use ravage this rural corner of Missouri. Though reports of drug-lab busts are practically a weekly feature in local newspapers here, media attention in this pocket of the country has recently turned to bath salts. In fact, Hefner told the Southeast Missourian, a daily paper based in nearby Cape Girardeau, that he recently arrested a young man on charges related to bath salts who had reported previous use of methamphetamine, cocaine and heroin, yet he said had "never done any drug that has the effects bath salts have."
Despite the scary effects of bath salts, use of these designer drugs is on the rise. The New York Times cited the American Association of Poison Control Centers reported nearly 3,500 calls about bath salts alone from January through June of this year, up more than 1,000 percent from all of 2010.
The grave implications associated with bath salts and shocking figures about increasing use show that an epidemic might just be underway.