Some states recently classified bath salts as Schedule I drugs after they were found to cause hallucinations, suicidal thoughts and death.
In most states, bath salts are legally sold at convenience stores, gas stations and head shops. Though they are generally used for their cosmetic purposes, bath salts contain a chemical known as methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV), which is also found in some plant fertilizers and is known for its stimulatory properties.
The salts are not designated for human consumption, yet there have been hundreds of reported incidents of users snorting, smoking and even injecting the substances, according to a Feb. 14 American Association of Poison Control Centers press release.
Poison control centers across 43 states have received 469 calls regarding users who have ingested the bath salts.
Side effects of ingesting the salts, which have been compared to methamphetamine and cocaine, include increased blood pressure, increased heart rate, agitation, hallucinations, extreme paranoia and delusions, according to the press release.
“These products create a very severe paranoia that we believe could cause users to harm themselves or others,” said Mark Ryan, the director of the Louisiana Poison Control Center, in a press release.
Louisiana has reported at least 165 cases of bath salt consumption.
“If you take the very worst of some of the other drugs–LSD and Ecstasy with their hallucinogenic-delusional type properties, PCP with extreme agitation, superhuman strength and combativeness, as well as the stimulant properties of cocaine and meth-if you take all the worst of those and put them all together this is what you get. It’s ugly,” Ryan said to HealthDay News.
Last month, Neil Brown, a man who admitted to using heroin and crack cocaine, was shocked at the bath salts’ effects, according to an article in the Huffington Post.
Brown, a Mississippi resident, consumed the bath salts and then used his skinning knife to cut his face and abdomen. While he survived, Brown was so traumatized by the incident that he wrote Mississippi lawmakers asking them to ban the substance.
Louisiana has had similar incidents, with some cases resulting in suicides. Because of the prevalence and danger of the salts, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal classified the bath salts as Schedule I drugs in early January, meaning that buying, selling or possessing the salts would carry the same penalty as heroin.
Florida followed suit by banning the salts in late January, while other states such as Kentucky and Mississippi are moving toward banning the substance as well.
So far the abuse of bath salts has largely been contained in the southern and western regions of the U.S. However, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is asking the New York State Department of Health Commissioner, Nirav Shah, to ban the salts as well.
The regional poison control center for Massachusetts and Rhode Island could not be reached for comments.
Boston University students said they agree that abusing bath salts is uncommon and not as serious as legislators assume.
“I think it’s weird,” said Justin Liu, a College of Arts and Sciences sophomore. “I don’t know why you would want to snort bath salts, but I guess people snort a lot of other things too.”