Recent news coverage of radical behavior such as assault, self-mutilation and even cannibalism have raised nationwide awareness of the dangers of synthetic drugs.
The Department of Defense is now cracking down on their zero tolerance policy with synthetic drugs like spice, and attention is now turned to a new synthetic drug emerging on the streets — bath salts.
People under the influence of bath salts have been compared to many of the fictional zombies popularized in movies or on TV shows. Videos of their attempts to break down doors, bite at other people and their relentless, seemingly unfazed movements after being tased or shot by authorities, have rapidly spread throughout the internet. Hype over the substance has led to its nickname as the “zombie drug.”
Contrary to its common name, it is not something used in the bathtub. The product is marketed and labeled “not fit for human consumption,” making it more difficult for anti-drug agencies to get it put on the Drug Enforcement Agency’s controlled substances list and banned from sales. Although some of the chemical compounds in bath salts have been made illegal, the constant change of its composition creates a problem getting all emerging varieties banned.
The Department of Defense banned the synthetic substance in 2010, the same year a group of Marines were admitted into a psychiatric ward after developing a psychosis thought to be directly related to bath salts usage.
Although it remains semi-legal for purchase in the civilian community, the Marine Corps views bath salts under the same light as the drug spice. Marines are prohibited from the purchase or use of either drug, no matter the name or variants. Possessing, providing or using bath salts violates the Corps’ zero-tolerance drug policy and is dealt with in the same manner as any other illegal substance abuse.
Bath salts are sold under a variety of names such as Ivory Wave, Purple Wave, Red Dove, Blue Silk, Zoom, Bloom, Cloud Nine, Ocean Snow, Lunar Wave, Vanilla Sky, White Lightning, Scarface and Hurricane Charlie.
These substances contain the active ingredient methylenedioxypyrovalerone, MDPV which targets the central nervous system. The stimulant causes highs similar to cocaine or methamphetamines, according to DEA fact sheets.
Ingesting bath salts through snorting specifically has been linked to a few of the worst case scenarios reported.
A “bad high” while under the influence of bath salts results in violent episodes and excited delirium, causing the users to attack other people or even inanimate objects with no caution or regard for their personal health or consequences, according to public access emergency room and police reports.
The drug’s effects on the user after the high has worn off are of equal concern. Bath salts can cause permanent changes in the chemical composition of the brain, leaving users with feelings of agitation or paranoia, hallucinations, chest pain or suicidal tendencies long after usage has ceased.
There have been hundreds of reported incidences called into poison control centers throughout the United States linked to bath salts.
Although the drug and incidences related to it are still being investigated by the DEA and other researchers, knowledge of the short and long-term effects are limited.
Research continues, and even with its legalized status in the civilian world, Marines are warned to keep their distance from the “zombie drug.”
For more information about bath salts, call your unit’s substance abuse prevention office.