Doctors and clinicians at U.S. poison centers are increasingly concerned about products marketed as bath salts that are causing increased blood pressure, increased heart rate, agitation, hallucinations, extreme paranoia and delusions.
Just as people using synthetic marijuana marketed as herbal incense believed they would get a high but instead developed damaging symptoms, now products labeled as bath salts and laced with a dangerous chemical are eliciting extreme adverse events among those who use them looking for a high.
The products have been sold on the Internet and, in some states, are being sold at gas stations and head shops. They're known by a variety of names, including "Red Dove," "Blue Silk," "Zoom," "Bloom," "Cloud Nine," "Ocean Snow," "Lunar Wave," "Vanilla Sky," "Ivory Wave," "White Lightning," "Scarface" and "Hurricane Charlie."
"We are incredibly concerned about the extreme paranoia being reported by people who are taking these drugs," said Mark Ryan, director of the Louisiana Poison Center. He said the products are being touted as cocaine substitutes and are causing intense cravings akin to methamphetamine use. He said he worries that the paranoia could cause those experimenting with the drugs to harm themselves or others.
Henry A. Spiller, director of the Kentucky Regional Poison Center, said the patients his center has treated "are having a break with reality."
"They have completely lost it," he said.
The products are believed to contain Methylenedioxypyrovalerone, or MPDV, a chemical that is not approved for medical use in the United States. Ryan said he also has received reports of these substances being sold as insect repellant or plant fertilizers.
As of Dec. 21, the Louisiana center alone has handled 85 cases. Nationally, these substances have spurred at least 156 calls to U.S. poison centers as of Dec. 21.
Packages of the powdered substance labeled bath salts indicate that the products are "not for human consumption," but Ryan said most patients calling poison centers have snorted the substances. In at least one case, he said, a person injected the substance into his veins.
"We are seeing a definite increase in reports about these products," said Alvin C. Bronstein, medical director of the Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center and the acting director of toxicosurveillance for the American Association of Poison Control Centers. "This is an emerging health threat that needs to be taken seriously."
Jim Hirt, executive director of the American Association of Poison Control Centers, said poison centers are ready to answer questions about bath salts or any other product that could pose harm to users.
"Poison centers are staffed with medical professionals who are trained to know how to treat a poison exposure," he said. "AAPCC runs the National Poison Data System, which monitors poison center data and can help health officials monitor emerging health threats such as this one."
American Association of Poison Control Centers