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Are Bath Salts an Illegal Drug?

We keep hearing about state legislators looking to make bath salts illegal in emergency legislation.  We’ll talk about what bath salts are, how they are illegally used, and why the importance of emergency legislation.

Bath salts have popped up on the radar screen as a new ‘designer’ drug.  The popularity has grown tremendously in the last year or so.  Do not confuse bath salts like the ones you would use in your bath, because they are not!  So what are they?  They are packaged just like K2 or Spice and labeled, ‘not for human consumption’ and sometimes are labeled as plant fertilizer.  Along with the other designer drugs you can fine these salts sold in convenience stores and tobacco shops under 24 different names, to include, Artic Blast, Snow Day, Wave, Cloud 9, Bolivian, and Ivory to name a few.  They look like a crystal, or could be a powder and sells for around $30 to $35 per bag.  They are most commonly in crystal form and pulverized.  This drug is made in China.

These bath salts are not put into a bath.  They are normally snorted; shot up, mixed with food, or simply drank.  The bath salts mimic behavior associated with amphetamine use.  Those on bath salts may experience a wide variety of side effects, to include; agitation, paranoia, hallucinations, suicidal tendencies, chest pain, and increased blood pressure and pulse.  According to WebMD there are no tests available that can tell if someone has taken bath salts and the only way you can tell is if the person admits to you.  It’s unknown at this time if bath salts are addictive.  The acute toxicity is the problem.  The active ingredient in most bath salts is; 3,4-Methylenedioxymethcathinone, 3,4-Methyenedioxypyrovalerone, 4-Methylmethcathinone, 4-methoxymethcathinone, 4-Fluoromethcathinone, and 3-Fluoromethcathinone.

According to a report from Bangor Daily News they say, “The number of people calling poison control centers around the country after consuming “bath salts” has more than doubled in the last year, putting officials on alert. An American Association of Poison Control Centers press release issued Feb. 24 states that in the first two months of this year, 639 people called about the synthetic stimulant, more than double the 297 figure from all of 2010. In 2009, there were no reported cases in the United States.”

Along with the outbreak of K2 and Spice, state governments find themselves playing catch up to the designer aspect of the popularity of these drugs.  Several states have passed legislation prohibiting the sale and/or possession of bath salts.  There are numerous states that have already made bath salts illegal or are considering legislation proposing just that.  The DEA is in the process to try and place them in a schedule 1 category.

Regardless of what we as law enforcement officers or legislators do, we always seem to be one step behind.  This actually started with MDMA (Ecstasy) in the late 90’s.  Once we gain control over one designer drug there appears to be another waiting in the wings.  We have to remain savvy with the trends and evolution of these particular designer drugs.  Unlike the traditional drugs in society these designer drugs offer an unknown that is much more likely to place the user, families, and law enforcement at risk.

I do not pretend to be an expert on bath salts.  I have not personally dealt with it yet.  Last year I wrote an article on K2 and to this day receive stories from officers who have first-hand experience with it.  I ask you that if you come across an interesting case involving bath salts, K2, or Spice, please send me an email.  I am going to compile the stories into a special column in the near future and would like to put your stories out there. 

As new trends come on board I hope to be able to get information out to you.  Next month’s column will involve the evolution of traps with motor vehicles for drug concealment.  I have important information to relay on that topic.  Any photos that you have involving traps and do not mind them being published please send them to my email.  You will get photo credit if you want it.  As always please stay safe out there and remember to wear that vest!


About The Author:

Chris Watkins started his law enforcement career as a police officer in our Nation’s Capital before moving his family west. In DC he worked with the Major Narcotics Unit as well as performing undercover assignments in the Street Robbery Unit. In his new location he was assigned to the Street Crimes Unit with the majority of his duties encompassing narcotics investigations and doing more undercover work. Currently he’s assigned as a K-9 handler for his agency. He’s an active member of the American Police Canine Association, Fraternal Order of Police, Free and Accepted Masons, and the Kentucky Narcotic Officers Association.