A New Orleans woman had to have her entire right arm amputated after injecting an increasing popular street legal drug called “bath salts.” The 34-year old woman went to a New Orleans hospital complaining of pain, swelling and redness in her arm after she attended a party. She had a small red puncture mark on her forearm where she admitted a needle was stuck.
The New Orleans doctors gave her antibiotics and diagnosed her with a skin infection. While things seemed to be getting better, two days later, she went back to the hospital because the swelling had returned. At that time, the New Orleans woman admitted to injecting “bath salts” at a party she attended. Not just typical bath salts, these are drugs that contain several synthetic chemicals, including mephedrone and MDPV, short for methylenedioxypyrovalerone, that give a stimulant high similar to meth or cocaine.
Doctors cut the New Orleans woman’s forearm open and discovered an infection and dead muscle. As they cut further up her arm, trying to find healthy tissue, they could see the infection moving so fast that they could see the flesh dying before them. The doctors had to amputate the New Orleans woman’s arm to stop the infection from reaching her entire body. They also perform a radical mastectomy and skin grafts.
The New Orleans woman has survived, but the “bath salts” are still a growing drug trend. Until recently, most people have snorted or smoked the bath salts drug, but having it injected gives a quicker, stronger high.
The drug has been marketed under “bath salts” or “plant food” and has also been called Vanilla Sky, Ivory Wave, White Lightning, Purple Wave, Bliss, Pump it Powder, and Hurricane Charlie. A small 50-milligram packet is sold for $25 to $50 at convenience stores.
The Drug Enforcement Administration does not regulate these substances, but they are under federal scrutiny, as the effects of these salts are comparable to methamphetamine abuse. Poison control centers around the country received 3,470 calls about bath salts from January through June 2011, according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, up from 303 in all of 2010.
Dr. Russell Russo of Louisiana State University Sciences Center reported, “Despite the drug’s legal status, it must be treated as illicit, and one must be suspicious when examining a patient with this clinical history because the diagnosis of flesh-eating bacteria can masquerade as abscesses and cellulitis.”
State lawmakers have been proposing to ban the sale of the powders. In Louisiana, the bath salts were outlawed by an emergency order after the state’s poison center received more than 125 calls in the last three months of 2010 involving exposure to the chemicals.
Are bath salts illegal? From WebMD, “You can find them in mini-marts and smoke shops sold as Ivory Wave, Bolivian Bath, and other names,” Zane Horowitz, MD, an emergency room physician and medical director of the Oregon Poison Center says. “The people who make these things have skirted the laws that make these types of things illegal. While several states have banned the sale of bath salts, ultimately it will have to be a federal law that labels these as a schedule 1 drug, which means it has no medicinal value but a high potential for abuse, and declare them illegal.”
What are bath salts effects? From Wikipedia: Users have reported that bath salts causes euphoria, stimulation, an enhanced appreciation for music, an elevated mood, decreased hostility, improved mental function and mild sexual stimulation; these effects are similar to the effects of cocaine, amphetamines and MDMA. These effects last different amounts of time, depending on the way the bath salts drug is taken. When taken orally, users report they can feel the effects within 15–45 minutes, when snorted the effects are felt within minutes and peak within half an hour. The bath salts effects last for between two and three hours when taken orally or nasally, but only half an hour if taken intravenously. 12 Out of 70 Dutch users of mephedrone (bath salts), 58 described it as an overall pleasant experience and 12 described it as an unpleasant experience. A survey of UK users, who had previously taken cocaine, found that most users found it produced a better quality and longer lasting high, was less addictive and carried the same risk as using cocaine.