Bath Salts and Cannibals

A disturbing new trend is appearing in the media today. The story usually involves an individual acting in a psychotic, terrifying manner while police and doctors look on in shock. The sub title reads “individual believed to be intoxicated with Bath Salts”. This new drug to hit the shelves has a variety of detrimental effects, it is growing in popularity, and worst of all it is very difficult to track and restrict by authorities.

“Bath Salts” is the name given to a new form of synthetic stimulant that has grown in popularity over the past two years. The substance comes in a crystal or powder form and can be snorted, smoked, or injected. These products once could be found in head shops and convenience stores and could be bought legally. However 28 states have now banned bath salts and several other states are expected to follow. These products were labeled with the warning “not for human consumption” as a means of avoiding restrictions by the FDA. However many individuals are now using synthetic stimulants as a substitution for cocaine. These substances have the ability to induce vivid hallucinations to its users.

The effects of these chemicals have the potential to send its users to the emergency rooms. Some common signs of bath salt intoxication are agitation, paranoia, hallucinations, delusions, and hypertension. Seizures were also reported by emergency room personnel while examining bath salt users. Synthetic stimulants also seem to manifest psychotic symptoms which include sleep problems, vivid hallucinations, and fearfulness.

At this point everyone has heard of the man who was found chewing the face off of a homeless man underneath a Miami freeway. The attacker was in turn shot and killed by police when he refused to stop his brutal assault. It was originally suspected that this man was suffering from the severe hallucinations brought on by synthetic stimulants (Bath Salts). However after a thorough toxicology report only trace amounts of cannabis were found in his system. Although the Miami cannibal was not intoxicated by bath salts there are other equally alarming reports of psychotic behavior due to these synthetic stimulants that have surfaced. A man in Indiana climbed a road side flag pole and jumped into traffic. Another man in Pennsylvania broke into a monastery and stabbed a priest. And there was a woman in West Virginia who scratched herself “to pieces” over several days because she thought there was something under her skin.

A particularly strange case came from Lilburn, Georgia earlier in June. Karl Laventure who reportedly admitted to being high on bath salts was subdued by police on a golf course after he threatened to eat them. Laventure was reported to have charged out of the woods surrounding the golf course and began charging at police and other observers. The man was naked at the time and was swinging golf clubs over his head in a violent fashion. When police finally subdued the man he threatened to “eat them”.

The appeal to these substances is that they are easy to attain and have claims that they are made with natural, organic materials. Restriction of these products becomes difficult. Whenever the FDA bans a particular product with a certain type of chemical compound, the producers of bath salts need only change the chemical composition slightly and then redistribute them. The American Association of Poison Control Centers found that there were 304 reports concerning bath salt intoxication in the year 2010. In 2011 the number of reports rose to 6,138. It is expected that the number of reports for 2012 will exceed that of the previous year.

Little is known about the long term effects of bath salts. However the rising trend in use has many health officials concerned and several government authorities scrambling to find an answer. Synthetic stimulants are dangerous. They are not a safe alternative to cocaine as many believe. And as use continues to rise, health officials struggle to find a solution.