The LA Times reported that Los Angeles County health officials have issued yet another warning regarding the dangers of using recently popularized designer drug, bath salts. The warning follows a newly-published study recording a drastic increase in the amount of calls poison control centers related to the drug.
According to the study, over the last few years, U.S. poison control centers have experienced a pronounced increase in calls related to bath salts, increasing from none in 2009 to 6,138 in 2011. Bath salts, sometimes referred to as white lightning, white rush, or Hurricane Charlie, have been linked to a number unusual incidents and arrests, likely due to the drug's tendency to cause hallucinations, paranoia and uncontrollable violent behavior.
In July, President Obama signed into law the Food and Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act, which included an amendment designating two chemicals commonly found in bath salts, Mephedrone and MDPV, as FDA-controlled substances. The law also banned the sale of bath salts in smoke shops and gas stations, but the drug remains available through online sources.
California recently enacted a law making it a misdemeanor offense to sell or distribute any "synthetic stimulant derivative" under Health and Safety Code section 11375.5, which provides: Every person who sells, dispenses, distributes, furnishes, administers, or gives, or offers to sell, dispense, distribute, furnish, administer, or give, any synthetic stimulant compound specified in subdivision (b), or any synthetic stimulant derivative, to any person, or who possesses that compound or derivative for sale, is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding six months, or by a fine not exceeding one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by both that fine and imprisonment.
Despite the ban on their sale, possession of bath salts in California is not yet a crime. Although not itself criminal, the use of bath salts leading to the commission of violent crimes is well documented. Indeed, it appears that, in many such situations, individuals with no prior criminal tendencies or propensity towards violence have committed serious felonies while under the influence of the drug.
Another problem with the recent uptick in the use of bath salts is that, because they are often manufactured by "street chemists," they are unregulated and not subject to the safety measures of legitimate drug manufacturers. This means that there is no way to determine what chemicals and how much of any given chemical a given amount of bath salts contains, putting users at increased risk of poisoning and overdose.