What exactly are “Bath Salts”?

Last modified: September 23, 2013 12:57:28 PM

Synthetic cathinone(MDVP, MEphedrone) are marketed as "bath salts" to evade detection by authorities.

The innocuously named “Bath Salts” is actually very potent, highly addictive street drug which has had an enormous amount of media attention lately due to the psychotic and extremely violent behavior of some of those who use it.  Its euphemistic moniker came about due to the fact that the drug looks like regular, every day Epsom bath salts.

Bath salts usually contain MDPV, or methylenedioxypyrovalerone, and could also contain methylone or mephedrone, and are usually distributed in a powdered format that can be inhaled, smoked, or injected.  The synthetic drug’s composition can vary widely from batch to batch, making it incredibly difficult for those who need to give a user medical treatment.

MDPV produces an effect very much like that of amphetamines, and it speeds up the central nervous system.  Like amphetamines, there can also be powerful negative effects, like paranoia, hallucinations, and extremely violent behavior.  Other risks include cardiac arrest, kidney failure, and suicide due to psychosis.

This street concoction of MDPV, methylone and mephedrone, according to medical experts at hospitals and treatment centers, is one of the most addictive drugs in existence.  Dr. Heidi-Marie Farinholt of Aberdeen Hospital in Nova Scotia, Canada told CBC news about the drug’s additive qualities.

“It is extremely dangerous. So you take cocaine and multiply it by a factor of 10 and you have this.”

Other names for the drug range from the innocent-sounding ivory wave and vanilla sky to the more sinister monkey dust and hurricane Charlie.

The drug, frustratingly, is like other synthetic drugs in that it is very hard to detect.  It cannot be detected by drug-sniffing dogs or in urine samples.  Further making things difficult for law enforcement is the fact that the drug is almost always labelled as a common every day product, like insect repellent, window cleaner or simply bath salts.

What also makes the drug disturbing is that MDPV is not yet illegal; while methylone and mephedrone are illegal substances, MDPV, at least in Canada, will start to be classed as a schedule 1 substance under the Controlled Drugs and Substances act in the autumn of 2012.  This means it will be illegal and will be in the same category as heroin and cocaine.  In the US, the federal government is always playing a game of “catch-up” with the synthetic drug designers; when one synthetic drug becomes illegal, the manufacturers come up with another formulation to beat the law.

In summary, the drug “bath salts” is one of the most dangerous street drugs available:  it is highly addictive, it causes psychotic episodes, it is difficult to detect and for the moment, it enjoys a quasi-legal status.