When President Barack Obama signed a law last week banning bath salts and 31 other synthetic substances, Dr. Rani G. Whitfield of Baton Rouge, La., was just one of several medical doctors who breathed a sigh of relief.
“I’ve been practicing medicine for 12 years, and I’ve never seen anything like this,” he told NewsOne. “When problems began surfacing in the emergency room a little over a year ago, we were seeing psychotic episodes and extreme agitation. The kids were telling us about a new drug called ‘bath salts.’ We didn’t know what it was. They were like, ‘No, it’s not what you put in your water. It’s not ‘Calgon take me away.’”
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Indeed, across the nation bath salts have been linked to so-called deadly zombie attacks. Most notably when Miami police officers shot and killed Rudy Eugene in late-May, they believed he was under the influence of bath salts because he refused to stop chewing the face of a naked man next to him. But it turned out to be a different drug, reports show.
Read More About The Rudy Eugene Story At NewsOne
Chemicals found in bath salts cause effects similar to those caused by cocaine and methamphetamines, including hallucinations, paranoia, and suicidal thoughts, according to a news release from Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), a sponsor of the law signed by the President. In one case, a user was reported to have resorted to self-mutilation after abusing the substance. In several cases, users have died after overdosing or because of violent behavior, the release says. Bath salts, which can be smoked, snorted, or injected, range in cost from $25 to $60 and can be purchased online or in smoke shops.
The law stops the sale of bath salts in the United States by putting the active ingredients, MDPV and mephedrone, to Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, which classifies drugs that are illegal and cannot be prescribed under any circumstances, according to Schumer’s office.
The substances have been sold online, at convenience stores, and in smoke shops under names like Tranquility, Zoom, Ivory Wave, Red Dove, Legal Phunk and Vanilla Sky.
“President Obama’s swift approval of this federal ban is the final nail in the coffin for the legal sale of bath salts in smoke shops and convenient stores in New York State and throughout the rest of the country,” Schumer said in the release.
“This law will close loopholes that have allowed manufacturers to circumvent local and state bans and ensure that you cannot simply cross state lines to find these deadly bath salts, and I’m pleased that after a great deal of effort, it has become law.
We have seen bath salts catalyze some of the most heinous crimes in recent months across Upstate New York, and the President’s signature ensures that the federal government can fight this scourge with a united front, across state lines and at our borders.”
Bath salts began catching the attention of law enforcement and health officials in 2010, Mehmet Oz, of the Dr. Oz Show wrote last year in a piece for Time Magazine.
“In 2010, there were 302 calls to poison-control centers nationwide about bath salts. In just the first three months of 2011, there were 784,” he wrote. “There were also roughly 1,500 bath-salt-related visits to emergency rooms in the first quarter of this year. A common cause of death from the drug is suicide; kids who survive often endure long-term psychiatric symptoms.”
Whitfield, who is known as the “Hip-Hop Doc” because he tries to make healthy living attractive to youth through music, said that while African Americans are less likely than Whites to indulge in bath salts, he’s glad for the ban because certain stars have been linked to it.
“There are rumors about Soldier Boy doing bath salts and a 21-year-old African American youth was arrested in an ill-fated zombie attack in Georgia over the July Fourth weekend,” he said. “But weed is still the drug of choice in hip-hop. That is what we still have to be on the lookout for. This law is important because we do not need any more drugs to infiltrate the African-American community. It cuts it off at the knees.”