Ingesting bath salts causes illness and death

There's a new designer drug wreaking havoc across the United States, and even though it sounds innocent, it can be deadly.

One of the most recent designer drugs to hit the streets – bath salts – has become trendy among users for many reasons: the perception of innocence, easy accessibility and relative inexpensiveness. But emergency medicine experts at the University of Alabama at Birmingham warn that these synthetic drugs are deadly.

“Bath salts can be compared to cocaine or an amphetamine; they’re a stimulant. But bath salts are not as expensive as pure cocaine or heroin,” says Erica Liebelt, M.D., professor in the UAB Department of Emergency Medicine. “Users are snorting or smoking the bath salts and also ingesting or injecting them intravenously.”

Liebelt says ingestion can cause numerous health problems, ranging from an increased heart rate and high blood pressure to psychosis, extreme paranoia and a desire to act violently. At least one patient, a 25-year-old man, has been treated at UAB after using bath salts and experiencing extreme paranoia.

Terri Glass, clinical director of the Addiction Recovery Program at UAB, says the consequences of using bath salts don’t end with addiction.

“People are having psychotic incidents and cutting themselves and having to be committed. Yet, people are still looking for bath salts and wanting to buy them,” Glass says.

Several states, including Alabama, have banned bath salts, but they can still be found online. However, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) is working to have the drugs MDVP and mephedrone, both of which can be found in bath salts, added to the federal controlled substances list.

“If people want to get them and they’re available on the Internet, they will get them. But I think a ban will help slow things down and divert their accessibility,” says Liebelt.

And, Liebelt adds, bath salts are just the latest trendy way to get high. “I wouldn’t be surprised if in three to four months we haven’t seen a new illicit drug emerge in the United States,” she says.

 For patient information, go to www.uabmedicine.org.

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