Anthony T. Ng, MD FAPA
Medical Director, Psychiatric Emergency Services, The Acadia Hospital
As the title says, the latest drug "Bath Salts" is not the same as the bath salts which many people commonly use for softer skin when they bathe. This new Bath Salts, which also has innocuous names like Monkey Dust, White Ivory or Kryptonite to name a few, is a synthetic drug that has seen an increase in its use in Bangor and northern Maine since late last year and early this year. There are almost daily reports in the news lately of someone who has been using Bath Salt and requiring medical and law enforcement intervention.
What is Bath Salts? The drug known as Bath Salts is made of either Methylenedioxypyrovalerone (more commonly known as MDPV), or mephedrone. There are both derivatives of amphetamines. While this drug became more visible in the Bangor area since late last year, it actually has been around for some time. It started in Europe in the early 2000’s when it was legal. Due to its addictive quality and the various psychiatric and medical complications, it was outlawed in many countries in Europe. Here in the US, it is still legal in some states. It is not classified as a controlled substance yet by the FDA. In Maine, it was only made illegal in July and even now, it is only a civil offense with some increased penalty for trafficking of Bath Salts. Lastly, it is still a fairly cheap drug to buy, as compared to cocaine, opiates and other illicit drugs with one even being able to order it online as it is still not regulated in some states.
Bath Salts gives the user an initial quick high, such as euphoria, increased energy and alertness and libido, with many of these effects resembling those from ecstasy, cocaine, stimulants and PCP use. However, this high quickly fades, only to be replaced with various medical or psychiatric complications. Bath Salts can lead to increased blood pressure and heart rate, neurological problems like seizures, kidney damage and even death. Psychiatrically for the user, Bath Salts can lead to tremendous psychosis with predominantly paranoia and hallucinations. One also sees depression and extreme suicidal thoughts. For some users, they may also have significant agitation. Such agitation is often managed by medical professionals with very high doses of medication for sedation.
For those who are curious about this drug or are thinking of using it, DON’T! And if you know someone who uses this drug, tell them to stop. Bath Salts is a very dangerous drug. We know very little about its long term effects but we do know in the short term, it causes a variety of problems for the users, resulting in extremely risky situations for them. Some Bath Salts users also have other substance abuse issues or mental health issues. It is extremely important to seek treatment immediately if one is starting to abuse Bath Salts.
View or Download the Bath Salts Warning Poster