It’s one of a parent’s many nightmares. You come home from a long day at work to discover your teenager and her friends high on something. You can’t tell what they’ve been doing, but they are all puffy-eyed and hysterical, scrambling to hide. Later, you discover they were all smoking something called “bath salts” that they had purchased at the corner convenience store.
You wonder, “How could kids get such a dangerous drug from a store? What is this stuff?” It looks like a package of cheap potpourri and smells like a strong chemical. A quick Internet search reveals that this stuff is indeed illegal. But President Obama only signed the federal law making it so in July 2012, and law enforcement hasn’t had the time or resources to enforce the ban.
Bath salts, which are sold in color packaging with names like K2 and Spice, are also known as synthetic marijuana. Label warnings even say, “Not for human consumption.” These devious products are manufactured with chemicals meant to mimic the effects of a number of drugs, including methamphetamine and cocaine. They are the latest in a class of illegal drugs sometimes referred to as designer drugs.
The first so-called designer drug was MDMA, a form of methylamphetamine known on the streets as Ecstasy, or simply X. In the early 1980s, drug cartels employed chemists to manipulate the chemical compound of this drug, subtly changing it so that it failed to meet the chemical definition of methylamphetamine that federal law defined as an illegal controlled substance, technically making it legal. These chemical designers kept changing the chemical formula to stay one step ahead of the law.
Ecstasy is a very dangerous, mind-altering drug in the same class as a psychedelic drug, and it has had devastating consequences to many young people who have used it. Today, all forms of such chemically altered designer drugs are illegal, but the black market for drugs is a multimillion dollar underground industry.
Bath Salts Are Very Dangerous Substances
Little is known about the origins of synthetic bath salts, but various forms of the product began appearing on convenience store shelves in the early 2000s. It has taken the federal government nearly 10 years to legislate these substances.
They can be swallowed, smoked, snorted, or injected, and the packaging is clearly aimed at young people. Bath salts and synthetic marijuana have been linked to psychotic episodes and crime, but as with many new forms of illicit drugs, medical science hasn’t fully studied their health effects on users.
But now that the salt has been spilled, so to speak, some drug-testing companies have been developing tests designed to determine if someone has been ingesting synthetic drugs like bath salts. Recently, a company based in Ohio announced that just such a test is available to law enforcement, schools, and employers.
The question is this, however: Will law enforcement and, more importantly, parents be able to stay ahead of the next wave of designer drugs? What seemingly innocent household product will next be commandeered by black market drug cartels and find their way onto store shelves? It’s up to us to stay diligent. Now we know anything that looks strange and out of place, such as bath salts for sale at a convenience store, should be suspect.
One avenue to keep an eye on is the Internet. Kids talk about the latest fads, and bath salts were once an open secret on social media sites. We want our kids to experience life and shouldn’t have to keep them sheltered from experience. But peer pressure and the desire to be cool and popular could be potentially dangerous.