Updated 06/13/2012 05:18 PM
What are bath salts?
Stories of people acting aggressively, even cannibalistic, have flooded the headlines and been the topic of national news. Many of those individuals are believed to have been under the influence bath salts. But what exactly is this drug? YNN's Erin Clarke asked the experts.
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UNITED STATES -- It's midway through 2012 and the Upstate New York Poison Control center has received 141 calls about bath salts. That's up from a total of 118 in 2011.
"People don't come to the hospital. People don't call the poison center if they're having a good time, so the true numbers are probably much higher," said Dr. Alexander Garrard.
And doctors don't know all of what's being cooked into these synthetic drugs, made with compounds called mephedrone, methylone and MDPV. They're meant to mimic the effects of known drugs, but have side effects far less than euphoria.
"They're coming in agitated, tacacardic, racing heart, very violent and hallucinating and paranoid and that stuff could last for weeks," said Garrard.
Bath salts are classified as synthetic cathinones. Cathinones are a compound found in the khat plant and chewed in some countries for a mild simulative effect.
The name bath salts has absolutely nothing to do with the stuff that you throw in the tub. Poison control experts say the name may have been given to the drug so that it could evade suspicion from law enforcement or even to describe the euphoric or relaxing.
In fact, using the real bath salts as a drug could cause considerable problems too.
"Probably a lot of sinus irritation. People are going to snort these kind of compounds. That's most commonly how it's abused. So there is a lot of irritation that can happen, headaches,” Garrard said. “You know if people were to inject the actual real bath salts there are problems associated with that as well. A clot in the arm could lead to pulmonary embolism."
Garrard considers bath salts the "scariest drug out there" for a person to take.
"It takes a lot of medication to sedate them. They have to be restrained. In addition to that. All of that aggression induces a lot of problems in the body as far as kidney problems, the muscle breakdown," Garrard said.
A problem that law enforcement and medical professionals are just starting to scratch the surface of.
Synthetic drug compounds have been banned in some states, while legislators in several others are working toward that. Bath salts are also sold under other names.