Bath salts, Part 2: ‘This drug is absolutely deadly’

Amy Hunter,

WASHINGTON – The most dangerous aspect of the new drug, known as “bath salts,” is what experts and parents don’t know.

No formal research has been done on how the drug affects the human body, and it’s difficult to identify a person who is abusing it, experts say, because it is marketed as something other than a deadly amphetamine.

“Anyone can buy this on the Internet, have it delivered to their home, and the assumption is, that because they’re buying it on the Internet, many people feel it’s safe,” says Mike Gimbel, a drug expert at St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Baltimore.

“When, in fact, it’s becoming one of the most violent drugs we have seen since the use of PCP back in the 1980s. This drug is absolutely deadly.”

The drug is synthesized chemically and has very little relation to the substance people put in their bath tubs, Gimbel says. Dealers dub the drug “bath salts” because they can sell it that way.

“The big concern is the fact that this is a chemical and a drug that can be purchased on the Internet, and we have no idea what’s in the chemicals.”

Gimbel says a new variation is called Amped, which is described as “exuberance powder.”

“There is one that’s a glass cleaner. There’s one that’s called a plant food. There’s one that’s called a carpet deodorizer.”

A number of extremely violent and bizarre crimes have been associated with the drug lately – most notably the face-eating incident in Miami on May 26. Gimbel says the drug has become so potent, the federal government needs to get involved.

“All these synthetic drugs are deadly. They’re not what they say they are. We need a national campaign immediately.”

Jennifer Johnson, a manager at RMH Behavioral Health Services in Harrisonburg, Va., has seen a handful of emergency room cases in recent months of people affected by the mysterious compound.

“For a lot of people, when they’re using these substances, the initial high or the euphoria feeling quickly can give way to paranoia or suicidal thinking,” Johnson says.

“And some of those symptoms can last even after the drug has worn off.”

But there is hope, Johnson says. Despite the fact that little scientific research has been done on the drug, patients under its influence can be treated the same way as others with chemical dependencies – with therapy and detox programs.

For concerned parents, Gimbel says the best defense is vigilance.

“When you look on your credit card, it’s going to say ‘rug cleaner,’ or ‘bath salts.’ It’s not going to say a deadly drug,” he says. “So parents have to be aware of that when they get their credit card statement.

“They also need to be aware of any packages that are delivered to their home. Again, it may look innocent, but in fact may contain some of these.”

Gimbel says one of the biggest obstacles to combating the problem is the chemists are continually changing the drug recipe, so every time a certain substance is banned, another substance is used to make the drug. Then, it can be sold legally on the Internet.

“This is the Internet becoming our biggest drug dealer.”

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WTOP’s Kristi King contributed to this report. Follow Kristi King and WTOP on Twitter.

(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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