Beginning in 2008, the abuse of manmade drugs designed to evade law enforcement grew at alarming rates. One type of these manmade drugs, synthetic marijuana, is the second most widely abused drug among high school seniors. The most widely abused synthetic drug is Bath Salts. Although named “Bath Salts” there is no connection between the synthetic drug and products such as Epsom salts. The name Bath Salts was given to assist in the evasion of detection from Law Enforcement.
Bath salts are typically taken orally, inhaled, or injected, with the worst outcomes being associated with snorting or needle injection.
"Synthetic drugs are just as dangerous as heroin or cocaine, but they're disguised in packaging that we wouldn't normally associate with something so deadly."
-Attorney General Mike DeWine
How Do Bath Salts Affect the Brain?
The energizing and often agitating effects reported in people who have taken bath salts are consistent with other drugs like amphetamines and cocaine that raise the level of the neurotransmitter dopamine in brain circuits regulating reward and movement. A surge in dopamine in these circuits causes feelings of euphoria and increased activity. A similar surge of the transmitter norepinephrine can raise heart rate and blood pressure.
Bath salts have been linked to an alarming surge in visits to emergency departments and poison control centers across the country. Common reactions reported for people who have needed medical attention after using bath salts include cardiac symptoms (such as racing heart, high blood pressure, and chest pains) and psychiatric symptoms including paranoia, hallucinations, and panic attacks.
Patients with the syndrome known as “excited delirium” from taking bath salts also may have dehydration, breakdown of skeletal muscle tissue, and kidney failure.
Early indications are that Bath Salts have a high abuse and addiction potential. Bath Salts users have reported that the drugs trigger intense cravings (or a compulsive urge to use the drug again) and that they are highly addictive. Frequent consumption may induce tolerance, dependence, and strong withdrawal symptoms when not taking the drug.
The dangers of bath salts are compounded by the fact that these products may contain other, unknown ingredients that may have their own harmful effects.
Reports of severe intoxication and dangerous health effects associated with use of bath salts have made these drugs a serious and growing public health and safety issue. The synthetic cathinones in bath salts can produce euphoria and increased sociability and sex drive, but some users experience paranoia, agitation, and hallucinatory delirium; some even display psychotic and violent behavior, and deaths have been reported in several instances.
New Law Takes Aim at Synthetic Drugs
“Synthetic drugs are still relatively new in Ohio, so we want our prosecutors and peace officers to have all the information they need to successfully fight the abuse of these drugs.”
-Attorney General Mike DeWine
The Attorney General’s Office worked closed with legislators on a tough new law banning certain synthetic drugs, many of which have been widely available through the Internet and in convenience stores, head shops, and gas stations. This measure gives law enforcement a much wider and flexible net to go after manufacturers, distributors, and users of harmful substances masquerading under labels claiming they’re bath salts, herbal incense, glass cleaner, plant food, or novelty items.
Lawmakers passed the bill unanimously, and it took effect in December. The law builds on a 2011 statute that banned substances law enforcement and crime lab personnel were seeing at that time.
The Office of the Attorney General has worked closely with local law enforcement to end this problem. Special Prosecutors and chemists have teamed with the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy to conduct training for law enforcement officers on the new legislation and investigative strategies. Agents from BCI assist in undercover buys and local investigations. In addition, the Attorney General has filed numerous civil lawsuits to shut down retailers that sell these products. The Attorney General’s BCI Crime Lab analyzes drugs from these locations and provides expert testimony and assistance.