In the wake of the Miami cannibalism attack by Rudy Eugene on May 26th, many people have been trying to understand how “bath salts” — the drug that allegedly made Eugene hallucinate — were involved.
Here’s what you need to know.
What are “bath salts”?
“Bath salts” (known on the streets as “bath powder,” “herbal incense,” or “plant food”) is a designer drug — synthetic and cooked up in a lab, like Ecstasy or methamphetamine. But the blanket term “bath salts” is confusing, because it refers to multiple chemical combinations. They are not the bath salts you use for relaxing baths — drug producers take the benign name for marketing purposes.
How do bath salts get you high?
Bath salts, which can be snorted, smoked, or injected, cause both stimulation and hallucination. They electrify the central nervous system, like cocaine, meth, and speed. But they also cause paranoid delusions or hallucinations. As a stimulant, it’s probably extremely addictive.
What are ingredients of bath salts?
The main ingredients are synthetic materials MDPV (3,4-Methylenedioxypyrovalerone), mephedrone, pyrovalerone, and methylone. MDPV and mephedrone, the most common bath salts, originally came from a hallucinogenic east African plant called Khat. But other chemicals can be added to the mix. Some variants have extremely high levels of caffeine.
What makes them so dangerous?
They’re cheap ($25-$60 per packet) and ridiculously easy to get. The Drug Enforcement Administration banned MDPV, mephedrone, and methylone in October 2011. But underground chemists have continued to change their chemical compositions slightly to make it technically legal, so tobacco shops and convenience stores were still able to sell them under relaxing names such as “Blue Silk,” “Bliss,” “Vanilla Sky,” “Ivory Wave,” and “Purple Wave.”
Moreover, most doctors and users have no idea what bath salts actually are, since “bath salts” is a blanket term for many combinations. There’s no way to test for these mysterious substances.
Why are they called “bath salts?"
By naming the drug after an everyday substance and labeling it “not for human consumption,” many producers got away with selling them legally. The innocent name also makes them seem less dangerous.
Where do bath salts come from?
China and Europe are the top manufacturers and exporters of bath salts, but experts say that Americans may start concocting them soon. They were first synthesized in 1920s France, but quickly disappeared into obscurity. In 2004, a chemist rediscovered the drug recipe and posted it on a sketchy website called Hive. Though the website is now shut down for sharing too much information on illegal drugs, bath salts became popular in Europe.
5 other absurd, deadly drugs named after — or made of — everyday products:
1) K2 and Spice: Synthetic cannabis, made of legal herbs but laced with psychoactive chemicals. They work like marijuana but aren’t detectable as such. They’re sold as “herbal incense,” but now authorities are cracking down on the drug.
2) Nutmeg: Yeah, the brown baking spice in your kitchen cupboard. If taken in large enough doses, nutmeg can cause hallucinations and sudden sniffing death syndrome.
3) Cough medicine (Robitussin, Vicks): Cough medicines contain dextromethorphan (DXM), which alleviate cough symptoms but also cause hallucinations in large enough doses. Overdosing on DXM can lead to nausea, difficulties breathing, seizures, and permanent brain damage.
4) Purell: Some teens drink Purell to get drunk. The hand sanitizer contains 70% alcohol, which causes lethal levels of intoxication as opposed to normal drinks like beer (5%) and even liquor (40%).
5) Nitrous oxide (in balloons): Remember when you inhaled balloon air to make your voice high and squeaky? Turns out some inhale it as a drug. Known as “whippets,” the laughing gas can damage air passageways, lead to heart arrest and potentially cause unconsciousness, followed shortly after by death.