Bath salts, legal and scary
By Sophia Kazmi
Contra Costa Times
A powdery substance being legally sold in California under the name of “bath salts” contains a synthetic drug that health officials say can cause hallucinations, paranoia and violent behavior when smoked, snorted or injected.
Police and health workers are so concerned, state legislators will decide this week if California should join more than 30 states that have already banned the synthetic stimulant.
“These drugs have nothing to do with bath salts that you might find at Bed, Bath and Beyond,” said Dr. Rick Geller, director of the California Poison Control Systems.
“These are very, very, very dangerous agents. … People who are under the influence of bath salts are prone to have abrupt, bizarre behavior including grotesque suicide.”
They may not be the same bath salts as sold at cosmetic counters, but they are just as easy to find. The product can be found at convenience stores, head shops and online. A gram of packaged bath salts sold at a Livermore smoke shop for $29.99 plus tax. The package came with two vials of powder, but no instructions.
The number of reports of adverse effects from bath salts are rising nationwide.
The American Association of Poison Control Centers had 302 calls reporting exposure to bath salts in 2010. As of July 31, the association has had 4,137 reports.
The same is true in California. Last year, Geller said the state poison control system saw a handful of cases. As of July 20, that number was 72, of which 55 cases were treated at hospitals.
Users have been reported at times to mutilate themselves, barricade themselves and have psychotic episodes.
A federal ban is making its way through Congress. And, on Monday, a bill for a statewide ban of bath salts sales is expected to be heard on the California Senate floor. Assembly Bill 486, written by Assemblyman Ben Hueso, D-San Diego, would make it a misdemeanor to sell bath salts. The punishment would be as much as six months in county jail, a fine of as much as $1,000, or both. It has already passed the Assembly. The bill seeks an emergency clause approval, which requires approval by two-thirds of the vote, so it could be enacted immediately if signed by the governor.