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Bath Salts Are Dually Dangerous

Posted on March 10, 2012 in Research & News

Government reports tell us that abuse of drugs like cocaine is on the decline. That is good news. However, recent years have seen the entry of new synthetic drugs which are designed to mimic drugs like cocaine. Marketed under the street name of bath salts, these new drugs are off-setting declines in other statistics, while posing the same, perhaps even greater dangers.

Bath Salts Synthetically Combine the Effects of Two Highly Dangerous Drugs

Bath salts are a synthetic compound of amphetamine whose effects mirror those of methamphetamine and cocaine. Because the drug delivers the effects of both these drugs at the same time, their use is particularly dangerous – one might say doubly so. Drug abusers rarely take cocaine and methamphetamine at the same time, but users of bath salts might as well be doing just that. Meth and cocaine affect the brain in such opposite ways that experts felt that a synthetic drug which mimicked them would actually cancel one another out. Sadly, that assumption proved false.

Researchers who were studying the naturally occurring substance which bath salts are designed to emulate have found that rather than cancelling one another, taking the chemicals together actually enhances the effects of both. One chemical in bath salts stimulates the release of the brain’s “feel good” chemical dopamine in a way that simulates the effects of methamphetamine. At the same time, another substance in bath salts (methylenedioxypyrovalerone) works as a reuptake inhibitor for dopamine in a way that simulates cocaine. Taken together, these chemicals give users a feeling of euphoria whose high can last longer than when either of the naturally occurring drugs are taken singly. This makes bath salts particularly potent, addictive and dangerous.

The Problems With Bath Salts Has Been Escalating

The drug was practically unheard of just a few years ago, but sales quickly grew as did the trail of destruction in its wake. In 2009 there were zero reported calls to poison control related to bath salts but by 2010 reported cases numbered 236. By the year 2011, the number of bath salt related cases reported through poison control centers numbered above 6,000. Like all stimulants, bath salts effect the central nervous system by raising heart rate and blood pressure which can lead to severe chest pain or even heart attack. Psychological symptoms include agitation, paranoia, delusions and psychosis.

The Drug Enforcement Agency began by tagging bath salts as drugs of concern. From there they have gone on to legally prohibit the trafficking of the chemicals which go into bath salts in an effort to stem the tide of abuse. To date, the regulation of bath salt sales has varied widely from state to state and has continued unabated over the Internet. Hopefully, efforts toward making the chemicals controlled substances under federal watch and prosecution will be successful and this dangerous synthetic drug will become all but extinct. The old battle continues.

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