Assault, Bath-Salts and Battery

Last month the internet was abuzz with the gruesome story of the nude face-eating cannibal zombie attack in Florida.

This month it’s the Pennsylvania mom, who attacked nurses and tried to bite a cop in a naked brawl, two days after giving birth.

For those readers who somehow missed these stories, allow us to summarize.

The first case happened on May 27th in Miami, Florida when a naked 31-year-old man tried to eat the face off of a complete stranger. He was largely successful in his efforts, mauling off 80% of his victim’s face. It was a gruesome spectacle that baffled police officers, ending with the attacker dead, and the victim virtually faceless. For those who witnessed this disturbing and puzzling attack, either first hand or through the media, it appeared as though the zombie apocalypse had begun.

The second, occurred on June 17, when a new mom stripped naked and repeatedly attacked staff and law enforcement officers on the maternity ward of Altoona Regional Hospital.

What links these two cases is not just the nudity and the biting – but also “bath salts”.  Bath salts are a relatively new group of designer drugs sold as tablets, capsules, or powder and purchased in places such as convenience stores and gas stations.

When the Miami mauling originally appeared in the news, the words “bath salts” were almost always included in the headlines, suggesting that dangerous or hallucinogenic drugs were the real culprits behind the attack. Subsequently, toxicology reports indicated that the only drugs the attacker had in his system at the time were traces of cannabis.

In the more recent case, it seems the woman had been smoking bath salts. After the attack, cops found a hollowed out pen covered with what they said looked like residue from smoking drugs, and  a silver disc containing a white powder that the attacker  identified as Disco – a street name for bath salts.

So what exactly are bath salts and why are they so dangerous?

First of all they are not the colored crystals you would add to your tub to promote a relaxing soak.  Although they sound innocent enough, they are in fact dangerous stimulants that mimic cocaine, LSD, methamphetamine, or ecstasy.

Between January and February 2011 alone there were over 250 calls to U.S. poison centers related to bath salts.

Given the recent surge of cases in which the use of these drugs has been associated with violent acts SRxA’s Word on Health believes it’s important to educate our readers. Society needs to understand bath salts before we can create an effective means of stopping or controlling their distribution, and providing treatment for those unfortunate enough to experience its effects.

Bath salts are produced from Methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV), a psychoactive drug with stimulant properties first developed in 1969.  MDPV causes intense stimulation, euphoria, elevated mood, and a reportedly pleasurable “rush.” Increased heart rate and blood pressure, chest pain, hallucinations, paranoia, erratic behavior, inattention, lack of memory of substance use, and psychosis have also been observed.

Part of the appeal of using bath salts has been their relative availability and the difficulty in picking up its use on routine drug screens.

Bath salts have been packaged and labeled as “plant food” or “not for human consumption,” and product labels do not list the ingredients. Brand names include Blizzard, Black Rob Blue Silk, Charge+, Cloud 9Ivory Snow, Ivory Wave, Mad Cow, Magic, Maddie, Ocean Burst, Pure Ivory, Purple Wave, Snow Leopard, Stardust, Super Coke, Vanilla Sky, White Dove, White Knight and White Lightning.

On October 21, 2011, the US Drug Enforcement Administration issued a temporary one year ban on bath salts, classifying them as a schedule I substance – a status is reserved for those substances with a high potential for abuse.

On December 8, 2011, under the Synthetic Drug Control Act, the US House of Representatives voted to ban bath salts and a variety of other synthetic drugs which, until then, had been sold legally in stores.

The bottom line?

Bath salts are a relatively new drug, so it’s hard to know the full long-term effects, but they seem to have many similarities to methamphetamine. They can lead to emotional and physical “crash-like” feelings of depression, anxiety and intense cravings for more of the drug.  And since they contain amphetamine-like chemicals, bath salts will always carry the risk of stroke, heart attack and sudden death. While they may be still be legal in some countries, so is rat poison, and you probably wouldn’t want to ingest that either!