Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal last week signed a law to ban "synthetic marijuana" and new recreational drugs known as "bath salts," which are still legal in almost half of the United States, according to a report from WDSU. Ohio Gov. John Kasich also banned bath salts and other new recreational drugs on Friday.
"Bath salts," which get their name from their visual similarity to the soothing chemicals you put in your bath, contain man-made substances known as methylmethcathinone (mephedrone) and methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV). According to the New York Times, "Both drugs are related to khat, an organic stimulant found in Arab and East African countries that is illegal in the United States. They are similar to so-called synthetic marijuana, which has also caused a surge in medical emergencies and been banned in a number of states."
Bath salts — which can be purchased online or at convenience stores or head shops for $25 to $50 for a 50-milligram packet — can be snorted, injected or smoked. According to various reports, the drug causes a cocaine-like high.
That high is also reportedly quite dangerous. The Times interviewed several doctors who reported people on bath salts arriving in hospitals "so agitated, violent and psychotic that a small army of medical workers was needed to hold them down." Even high amounts of sedatives or Tasers did little to calm some of these people down. Others have engaged in activities similar to people on PCP, such as running into traffic or scratching their skin off.
According to WDSU, "At least 12 deaths nationwide have been directly linked to bath salt drug substances to date, and there have already been 4,042 reports of these drugs being ingested by people in the U.S. this year."
Despite the risk, bath salt use is on the rise. The Times cites statistics from the American Association of Poison Control Centers, which found that local poison control centers received 3,470 calls about bath salts during the first six months of 2011, up from 303 during all 12 months of 2010.
The Times reports that the Drug Enforcement Agency is looking into adding mephedrone and MDPV controlled Schedule 1 substances, which would place the in the same class as PCP, heroin, ecstasy, marijuana and khat. Methamphetamines are a Schedule 2 drug.
Local DEA offices, like the one in New York state, where bath salts have been criminalized, are already targeting bath salts. The agency made its first arrest last month. "We were sending out a message that if you're going to sell these bath salts, it's a violation and we will be looking at you," special agent John P. Gilbride told the Times.
Ohio's new law also banned a drug called K2, usually legally sold as incense, apparently becoming the first state to ban this up-and-coming drug, which just a week ago one site was pitching as "50-state legal."