December 15, 2011

Newest Drug Epidemic, 'Bath Salts', Finds Its Way to Memphis

It wasn't like law enforcement agencies didn't already have their hands full in the war on drugs, but now police officers have another dangerous substance to deal with.

On the surface, "bath salts" don't sound like anything to be afraid of. But after a pair of recent incidents involving the illegal drugs, the Memphis Police Department is warning the community about the dangers of the synthetic stimulant.

"I'm not sure if this is the latest craze or not, but our community has been introduced to the problem none the less," said MPD chief Bill Holland.

Until this summer, the commercially available chemicals were not illegal in the state of Missouri. That changed when House Bill 641 was signed into law by Governor Jay Nixon in July.

The new law added bath salts as well as synthetic cannabis to the list of controlled substances. Missouri joined a growing list of states cracking down on the products that are being marketed on the Internet and in truck stops, smoke shops and convenience stores.

Recently, "bath salts" were involved in a child abuse case investigated by the Memphis Police Department.

According to the United States Drug Enforcement Administration, bath salts or Designer Cathinones (Synthetic Stimulants) are synthetic derivatives of cathinone, a central nervous system stimulant, which is an active chemical found naturally in the khat plant.

Data from the nation's 57 poison centers has highlighted the problems surrounding new synthetic drugs according to Dr. Richard Dart, president of the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC).

Complaints of agitation, insomnia, irritability, dizziness, depression, paranoia, delusions, suicidal thoughts, seizures, and panic attacks were reported to the poison control centers by users of bath salts. Users also reported effects including impaired perception of reality, reduced motor control, and decreased ability to think clearly.

Physical side effects of bath salts reportedly included rapid heart rate, which could lead to heart attacks and strokes, as well as reports of chest pains, nosebleeds, sweating, nausea, and vomiting.

"These substances have the potential to be extremely harmful and, therefore, pose an imminent hazard to the public safety," said Douglas A. Snyder, drug science officer with the DEA. "The AAPCC data was extremely valuable in documenting recent trends in abuse and was used in our justification to add temporary (emergency) control for several compounds."

On October 21st, the DEA exercised its emergency scheduling authority to control three synthetic stimulants (Mephedrone, 3,4 methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV) and Methylone) used to make products marketed as "bath salts" and "plant food". Except as authorized by law, this action makes possessing and selling these chemicals, or the products that contain them, illegal in the United States.

DEA officials noted that this emergency action was necessary to prevent an imminent threat to the public safety. The temporary scheduling action will remain in effect 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.

"This action demonstrates our commitment to keeping our streets safe from these and other new and emerging drugs that have decimated families, ruined lives, and caused havoc in communities across the country," said DEA Administrator Michele M. Leonhart. "These chemicals pose a direct and significant threat, regardless of how they are marketed, and we will aggressively pursue those who attempt their manufacture and sale."

Thirty-seven states have already taken action to control or ban these or other synthetic stimulants.

"Bath salt" stimulant products are sold in powder form in small plastic or foil packages of 200 and 500 milligrams under various brand names. Law enforcement officials believe the products are manufactured in China and India and are packaged for shipping in Eastern Europe under such product names as Blue Silk, Energy-1, Ivory Wave, Meow Meow, Purple Wave, Red Dove, and Snow Leopard.

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