A twenty year old man from my hometown stripped naked, jumped out of a second story window and broke both legs. He proceeded to tackle a woman and began gnawing on her head. A man in West Virginia was arrested after he killed his neighbor's pet goat while wearing women's underwear. Both had been using bath salts.
These extreme behaviors are caused by significantly elevated body temperatures. The brain begins to cook itself and the body reacts by forcing the victim to remove their clothes. The brain stem remains slightly cooler than the rest of the brain and the most primitive bodily functions and instincts remain.
The synthetic stimulant or designer drug known as bath salts appeared in the United States in 2009. In 2010, 303 exposures were reported to Poison Control Centers; 5,625 in 2011. These are just the ones that are reported. Bath salts are costing our health care system significant dollars, and they are taking lives.
This white, yellow or brown powder is commonly advertised as "bath additives" to make one feel relaxed, uplifted or serene. It has also been camouflaged as plant food, stain remover, toilet bowl cleaner and hookah cleaner. It is sold in graphic packages or containers as a product intended to do something other than impair a person. They do not contain bath salts but rather three potent synthetic cathinones- MDPV, Mephedrone, and Methylone which mimic cocaine and methamphetamine.
Every box or packet has a label that reads, "Not for human consumption." This way the manufacturers can skirt all FDA and DEA regulations.
Bath salts are changing. After the five common ingredients were banned, the products didn't disappear, they evolved. As soon as the drugs were declared illegal, drug makers found new ways to get around the law by making slight changes to a chemical or molecule in the compound. It is no longer illegal because it is a different substance, thus creating a continual battle.
The doses vary considerably. There is no consistency in how these drugs are manufactured. Testing found some packages contained 17 milligrams, others contained 2,000 of MDPV. This explains why one person may have a mild reaction to the drug while another would end up psychotic.
Bath salts can be swallowed, snorted, smoked, or injected. Common effects are teeth grinding, jerking eye movements, profuse sweating, high blood pressure, high body temperature, dangerously high heart rate, anorexia, diminished thirst, paranoia, hallucinations, and significant violent outbursts. Seizures are common as well as self-injurious behaviors, suicidal thoughts and acts, and deaths. With seemingly superhuman strength, people high on the drug have a tendency to tear off their clothes, in an attempt to tear off their body parts.
Often high doses of common sedatives don't help them. Doctors turn to antipsychotics or other powerful medications to treat people. The concern is that bath salts don't wear off like cocaine or methamphetamine. Some patients are in the hospital from 5 to 14 days. They're under heavy sedation and when it tapers off the paranoia and delusions return. Taking bath salts is similar to taking amphetamine and cocaine together except MDPV is 10 times stronger than cocaine. Dopamine, a natural neurotransmitter in the brain, is involved in the experience of pleasure. Chocolate, sex, the buzz of a phone in a pocket, all cause a rush of dopamine from one cell to another in the brain's reward center. Then the dopamine goes back into the cell in a process called reuptake. It's the constant release and retreat of this chemical that causes feelings of pleasure and a sense of well being.
MDPV causes and excessive secretion of dopamine while blocking its reuptake at the same time. The brain becomes flooded with the dopamine and in all the areas where it is important, such as memory, learning, motivation and motor control, there is too much, and it wreaks havoc on these areas. This is why people who abuse the drug feel the effects for several days.
Dickie Sanders was a happy 21 year old who snorted bath salts only once. It led to five days of insomnia, waves of terror and frightening delusions, including one where he saw 25 police cars outside his home and slit his throat with a butcher knife. He was taken to the hospital for stitches and the hallucinations stopped. He told his stepmother that he would never try anything again. The paranoia flared up again at home and Dickie's father lay in bed with him with his arms wrapped around him until he nodded off. At some point Dickie woke up, quietly made his way downstairs and shot himself, taking his own life.
The inconsistency of synthetic drugs is most worrisome for experts. Tiny mistakes in drug makers' laboratories can make huge differences in how the drug reacts when it enters one's body. Simple highs can become debilitating and little is known about the long-term effects on the brain. MDPV is irreversible, it won't let go. No other drug has that same feature of not allowing you to escape from it.