Bath salts are a new form of synthetic drugs that have been sold legally via the Internet and head shops throughout the USA and other parts of the world. Bath salts are typically a pure mix of mephedrone or a combination of mephedrone, MDVP and other substances. These types of drugs are known as research chemicals, because they are made by researching chemicals that will cause similar effects to known psychoactive substances.
The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) announced a ban on the manufacture, possession, use and sale of these potentially harmful and illegal substances in October 2011. The DEA had increasing concerns about the use of these drugs, which recently surged in popularity. Users reported to have effects that included impaired perception, reduction of motor control, paranoia, disorientation, hallucinations and euphoria. The DEA raised concerns about the safety of these drugs and the unknown long-term effects that the drugs may have on a person. Additionally, these drugs were being sold through shops and vendors under the guise of plant food or bath salts and did not have FDA approval for human consumption.
Research chemicals or designer drugs are experimental chemicals that have been designed to mimic the effects of other drugs such as MDMA, amphetamines, cannabis or psychedelic drugs. These drugs are sometimes called legal highs but this does not indicate that they are safe or even legal in some cases. These drugs are described as research chemicals because they are new substances that have very little information about them regarding their effects. Toxicity is often unknown and information about the experience these drugs give a user are usually based on small human studies.
Research chemicals are sold legally over the Internet on various websites, often without requiring proof of age. This means that people experimenting with drugs can easily acquire them, posing serious risks to their health. The risks of taking research chemicals are potentially greater than those associated with taking other illicit substances. This little information concerning interactions, reactions, toxicity, effect or health consequences of these drugs is available. Additionally, harm minimization information is relatively unknown, so people are unable to take the necessary precautions.
One of the key issues concerning research chemicals is the lack of knowledge of what types of substances are being sold as mephedrone or MDAI. Studies have shown that these chemicals are often sold with other ingredients, mixtures or as a pure substance. These varied levels of impurities can lead to errors in dosage, severe adverse reactions and overdosing. There is very limited information regarding the correct amount of research chemicals that should be taken, what the chemicals can have adverse reactions with and what should be avoided. As with any chemical compound, care should be taken when handling them. Unfortunately, many people do not follow this principle when they take research chemicals. Additionally, individuals should remember that reactions to psychoactive drugs are notoriously unpredictable.
Mephedrone or 4-methylmethcathinoneis a synthetic stimulant drug that is commonly sold as bath salts. It is also the best-known and most-abused of all the research chemicals. This drug has been developed to mimic the effects stimulants such as amphetamines or methamphetamines with mildly hallucinogenic properties. This chemical typically comes as a white crystalline powder and is also known as meph, meow-meow, m-cat, plant food and bubbles. Users take the drug because it induces euphoria, alertness and talkativeness. Its effects are often likened to cocaine, speed or ecstasy.
Mephedrone has been known to cause serious health complications including heart palpitations, vomiting and nausea, disorientation, increased blood pressure and lowered body temperature, which has been linked to user reports of having blue hands and lips. It has also been known to cause seizures and fits. The high that mephedrone offers users often makes them want to take repeated doses. This can increase the risk of suffering serious side effects and overdosing. Users often grind their teeth when using this substance, which can lead to tooth breakages and stress fractures in the mouth. Some users report having poor short-term memory, erratic behavior and mania from repeated and long-term use. However, it should be noted that there is very little information regarding the consequences of long-term use and no information about the toxicity of the drug.
Research chemicals first began to be noted on the scene in the early 2000s when the drug began to show up in Europe. The chemicals gained popularity due to the cheap cost of the drug and the reduction in quality and availability of other club drugs like MDMA. Users were finding that MDMA no longer had the desired effects, and repeated dosing or increasing dosages did not increase the high or euphoric experience. Substances such as mephedrone offered users a new possibility, and the scene exploded with new drugs.
Drug use throughout Europe, the United Kingdom, the United States and Australia increased during this period, and the availability, accessibility and relative cheapness of the drugs provided an exciting opportunity for young people to experiment. The fact that these substances were sold via the Internet, at music festivals and at head shops led many to believe that these legal highs were safe for consumption despite very little evidence to support this theory. The drugs were sold as alternative highs, and young teenagers began to experiment with this and other substances. This lead to a number of negative situations in which people combined the drug with alcohol or other substances and encountered adverse consequences. Additionally, as the drugs could be made with relative ease by someone with basic scientific knowledge, a number of clandestine laboratories were set up to manufacture and distribute the bath salts.