Breaking down bath salts: Reports increasing in recent years

Courtesy of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency

Despite their retreat from the news recently, emerging designer drugs are a growing problem, according to recent reports.

The drugs, such as bath salts, K2 and spice, have received so much notice that at the end of June, the U.S. Congress classified 26 chemicals used to make some of the most common variations as Schedule I substances. In short, this means they have zero medicinal use in the U.S. but have a “high potential” for abuse.

The ban also ups the penalties for those who make or sell these products to the same as those for cocaine and heroin, according to Forbes.com.

The numbers are surprising – according to the 2011 Monitoring the Future study, 11.4 percent of high school seniors used K2 or spice in the past year. The numbers make these drugs the second most used among that demographic, according to the White House.

There also has been a dramatic jump in the number of calls made to poison control center in the U.S. for bath salts exposure, from 304 in 2010 to 6,138 in 2011. So far this year, there have been more than 1,700 calls.

What makes these drugs so dangerous? A combination of reasons:

  • Synthetic cannabinoids (such as K2 and spice) can cause extreme nervousness, agitation, racing heartbeat, tremors, seizures, hallucinations and nausea.
  • Bath salts can cause symptoms such as paranoia and violent behavior.
  • Often, these drugs are sold in legal establishments in ways that circumvent FDA regulatory oversight. For example, they are labeled as “not for human consumption.”
  • The synthetic materials are easily made and adapted to keep ahead of attempts to regulate them.
  • They are marketed as legal, despite containing chemicals proven to cause damage to health.

Authorities have been cracking down on producers of these substances, including a recent Drug Enforcement Agency operation that led to 90 arrests and seized more than 5 million packets of the drugs.

To read the full article from Forbes, click here.

To read the data sheet from the White House, click here.

To read the White House blog post announcing the ban, click here.

For a list of Neogen’s drug testing products, click here.

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