- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Ivory Wave, Vanilla Sky and Bliss may sound like products from the cosmetics aisle, but they are far from luxurious. They are street names for a dangerous drug known as “bath salts.”

First appearing in the U.S. in late 2010, bath salts are a member of the “white crystal” family of designer drugs that includes crystal meth and PCP, and have quickly gained notoriety as cheap, potent, addictive, readily available and occasionally lethal. One researcher compares their impact, whether taken orally or by injection, to an amphetamine cocktail with a cocaine chaser.

“Bath salts” generally include three main components: mephedrone, methylone and MDPV, although the exact composition varies and inert ingredients are often added.

The drug is an “upper” like meth, but can cause users to become paranoid and harm themselves and those around them. In a remarkably short period of time, bath salts have left a gruesome trail of destruction and soared to the top of law enforcement priorities.

One bath-salts user in Louisiana committed suicide because he thought police were after him. Another user was found wandering the West Virginia woods in women’s underwear after he stabbed a goat.

Because of the bizarre nature of the reported crime, Miami police last month at first thought suspect Rudy Eugene had abused bath salts before a cannibalistic attack on a homeless man. Toxicology reports later proved otherwise.

Lack of information

Federal regulators and law enforcement officials have been frustrated in part by the lack of information about the drug, which left bath salts readily available in convenience stores, gas stations and online. None of the standard drug-use surveys conducted in 2011 included questions about bath salts, and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the authority on drug usage trends, is not expected to release its findings until September.

“We lack sufficient data to understand the full scope of the problem,” said Rafael LeMaitre, spokesman for the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. “But we do know enough to know it is a big problem for the public.”

So big that President Obama on Monday signed into law a broad food-and-drugs bill that includes provisions that put mephedrone and MDPV on the list of so-called “Schedule I” controlled substances, effectively making the drug illegal.

Bath salts first popped up in the U.S. in October 2010. A year later, before the federal ban, the Drug Enforcement Administration placed a one-year ban on the three main components of the drug while the Department of Health and Human Services studied its effects. During that temporary federal ban, 41 states outlawed Cathinones, a broad category of substances that includes bath salts.

In the meantime, though, the drug was not hard to find. Falsely packaged as a standard bath salt, it sells for anywhere from $15.99 per gram to $35 per gram. Often, the package lists the ingredients of regular bath salts instead of drugs, causing a headache for producers of the luxury toiletry.

However, it is distinguishable from regular bath salts by the label common across all packages marked “not for human consumption.” This allows colorful and opinionated websites such as BathSaltsDrug.com and Ivory-Wave.com to sell their product without fear of any consequences, as long as there is a small disclaimer at the bottom that children under 18 are not allowed to use the website.

Meth + coke

Because the drug is so new, standard drug tests can’t check urine or blood for it, making it increasingly popular with athletes, transportation workers, military personnel and anyone else who gets drug-tested regularly.

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