Bath Salts Must Be Banned Under Federal Law | The Exception Magazine
Bath Salts Must Be Banned Under Federal Law
Susan Collins represents Maine in the United States Senate. This is a guest op-ed and the Exception Magazine does not necessarily endorse the views expressed below.
They are called "bath salts," marketed under such appealing labels as "Vanilla Sky" and "Ivory Wave." The truth is, however, the correct name for this new breed of devastating drugs is "time bomb."
These dangerous drugs, synthetic stimulants, first burst upon the American scene last year. Since then, use has skyrocketed here in Maine and throughout the country. With the increased use of bath salts have come alarming reports of extremely hazardous and long-lasting effects.
Those effects include immediate dangers - highly elevated blood pressures, heart rates, and body temperatures, followed by psychosis, delusions, and hallucinations that lead to wildly irrational, self-destructive, and violent behavior. These psychological symptoms can persist for weeks and even months after ingestion, and can flare up without warning. Emergency rooms have reported cases in which a small army of medical workers cannot subdue people under the influence of bath salts and even large doses of sedatives do not calm them down.
During the first six months of this year, poison-control centers across the country had handled nearly 3,500 bath salt emergencies, more than 10 times the number from all of last year. Causes of death range from cardiac arrest to suicide.
In the face of this epidemic, Maine and 31 other states have banned the sale and possession of bath salts. Tragically, these harmful chemicals remain legal in the remaining states and, even worse, under federal law.
I am a co-sponsor of bipartisan legislation that would make the synthetic chemicals used to make bath salts illegal throughout the United States. The "Combating Dangerous Synthetic Stimulants Act" would ban mephedrone and MDPV under the federal Controlled Substances Act as drugs that have no legitimate medical value and a high potential for abuse.
In early September, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency invoked its emergency authority and instituted a ban on those chemicals, which will take effect this month and last for one year. This is a necessary step given the crisis, but it is no substitute for action by Congress to outlaw the drugs permanently.
Bath salts are a chilling example of the need to remain vigilant on drug abuse trends and to make sure that our drug laws meet emerging challenges.
These drugs are called "bath salts" because they are marketed as such, even though they bear no relation to the perfectly legal and harmless compounds that provide a relaxing soak in the tub. They are sold in some head shops, liquor stores, convenience stores, and on the Internet, at prices vastly higher than real bath salts. The packaging bears the caution "Not for human consumption," which allows dealers to skirt federal drug laws.
The legislation I have co-sponsored would close that loophole. In addition, although states can ban the sale in stores within their borders, federal action is needed to shut down the Internet pipeline.
No region of Maine has been immune to this threat. Our state's leaders, law-enforcement officials, and medical personnel deserve credit for responding quickly to alert the public to the dangers and to discourage experimentation. But this is not a battle Maine or any other state can fight alone. This is a national threat that requires national action.
So-called "designer drugs" -- new compounds created in the lab to be just different enough chemically to be legal -- are a growing and persistent threat. With the use bath salts rapidly increasing, the longer we wait to permanently ban the chemicals used to make them, the more we put people at senseless risk. The delayed psychological effects of bath salts make them a time bomb for users, and the proliferation of these dangerous drugs make them a time bomb for society.