COMMENTARY | In my home town of Gadsden, Ala., stimulant drugs are extremely common despite their obvious dangers. Methamphetamine is so common in the area that a nearby region, Sand Mountain, has earned the colloquial nickname “Meth Mountain” because of its epidemic levels of stimulant abuse.
I wasn’t surprised when I began hearing murmurs from locals about “bath salt” drugs, which have been sweeping the nation as a legal alternative to cocaine and methamphetamine.
Although bath salt drugs have spawned the misconception that ordinary bath salts are psychoactive, this is not the case. Rather, several unscented, salt-free white powders sold in convenience stores contain the harsh stimulant Methylenedioxypyrovalerone, or MDPV. The compound is not fragrant or relaxing in any way; it would be useless and inappropriate in a bath tub.
According to a recent report by NPR’s Greg Allen, the products are sold under the brand names Cloud 9, Ivory Wave, Ocean, Charge Plus, White Lightning, Scarface, Hurricane Charlie, Red Dove and White Dove, and are disguised as “bath salts” for marketing purposes.
You don’t have any reason to fear the combination of epsom salts or sea salts that you use in your own bath — the MDPV bath salt drugs are not available in ordinary department stores. Addicts are instead finding them among “glass roses” and other drug paraphernalia at certain stores, particularly in Northeast Alabama and other areas of the Southeast.
Despite their legality as a “cosmetic,” bath salt drugs are extremely dangerous and pose the same degree of risk associated with cocaine and methamphetamine — if not a greater risk. A report by the Psychonaut Web Mapping Research Group identifies these “bath salt” drugs as potent central nervous system stimulants.
The side effects of “bath salt” drugs include high blood pressure, heart attack, increased heart rate, stroke, sweating, panic attacks, psychosis and prolonged insomnia. These effects are greatest in people with pre-existing medical conditions and those who do not have a strong tolerance for stimulant drugs.
Additionally, bath salt drugs are powerfully addictive, and they cause a severe let-down at least as strong as methamphetamine. They can cause severe anxiety, depression, muscle pain, aching, insomnia and irritability in people who stop using the products abruptly.
The answer to preventing the abuse of “bath salt” drugs isn’t necessarily to ban the product — a ban has never stopped the numerous meth addicts and cocaine addicts from overtaking neighborhoods throughout the U.S. Instead, drug abuse prevention will involve everyone making a conscious and deliberate effort to avoid the use of dangerous psychoactive drugs.
If you are reading this in hopes of finding a way to obtain and abuse bath salt drugs, my advice to you is simply this: don’t do it. As someone who has nearly lost a loved one to stimulant abuse, I beg you to reconsider your actions and to consider the way drug abuse might affect those who care about you. Stimulant abuse cannot — and does not — have any possible positive outcome. Your life is too important to throw away because of some jitter-inducing white powder.
NPR: Florida Bans Cocaine-like “Bath Salts” (February 11, 2011)
MDPV Drug Report by Pscyhonaur Web Mapping Research Group