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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Salt of death

The recreational use of bath salts is on the rise, but not the kind used for bathing.

The dangers of an unusual drug, known commonly as bath salts, can cause hallucinations, suicidal thoughts and psychotic breaks when smoked, injected or snorted.

The bath salts are manufactured into small packets that look like fertilizer, said Keith Boesen, the interim managing director of the Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center.

Boesen said he sees bath salts as a cover for manufacturers to bring drugs into the market. The first reports of this type of drug first filtered in during 2009. By late 2010, more reports began showing up.

In Arizona, a total of 14 cases related to bath salts were called in, according to Boesen. The patients he has seen have all been in their 20s.

Louisiana had more than 100 reported bath salt cases, around 25 percent of the national total, he said.

While some states have banned the selling of bath salts, Arizona is still in the process of making them illegal, he said.

Stores get away with selling bath salts because they are packaged under a label that says “”not for human consumption,”” said David Salafsky, the director of Health Promotion and Preventive Services at Campus Health Service.

People are purchasing bath salts such as Cloud 9, Boesen said. He has seen small packets of different brands sold between $20 and $60. Other bath salt brands include Ivory Wave and Bolivian Bath.

“”We want to be able to educate students so they’re aware of what these drugs are and their effects,”” Salafsky said.

Bath salts often contain Methylenedioxypyrovalerone, a hallucinogenic also known as a MDPV. MDPV is a stimulant that acts similar to amphetamines, cocaine or ecstasy, Boesen said. People can inject, snort or smoke bath salts.

Not all bath salts contain MDPV, according to Dr. Anne-Michelle Ruha, the director of the Medical Toxicology Fellowship at Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center-Phoenix. After analyzing some samples, it was determined that bath salts can contain anesthetics such as lidocaine and benzocaine, which can cause parts of the body to become immune to pain.

“”People should remember that while they may be looking for one drug in the substance, they really don’t know what they’re being exposed to,”” Ruha said, “”and there could be many different drugs, some of which are very dangerous.””

People look at bath salts as a way to get high legally, she said. More common drugs are illegal, which leads people to believe they are dangerous, but people may think differently about bath salts.

“”If you walk in and just buy something over the counter and it’s not illegal, it can lead to a false perception that it’s not harmful,”” Ruha said.

Boesen’s concern with the drug is the damage involved and how easily the drugs can be accessed. The severity of the reactions can affect a person’s heart rate, blood pressure and the sensation of how the mind is working.

“”They just lose control, they become very agitated, very stimulated,”” he said. “”The hallucinations can be very profound.””

Hospitals have a hard time getting those affected by bath salts under control because of the over-stimulation and the experience of severe paranoia from the psychotic break, Boesen said.

Usually patients recover within 12 to 24 hours, but some centers keep patients for two to three days. In more severe cases, patients are sent to psychiatric facilities for one to two weeks before recovering.

“”We’ve had one patient that came into the hospital three times over the course of, I think, 10 days,”” he said. “”It seemed like every time he used, it brought him in to the hospital.””

While bath salt drug abuse has not yet become a major problem in Arizona, Boesen does not want it to become one, he said.

“”We’re hoping to discourage people from using it,”” Boesen said. “”A single use could cause you to end up in the hospital.””

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