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'Bath salt' madness leads to proposed federal ban

In November, we wrote that the Drug Enforcement Administration used its emergency powers to ban five chemicals used in synthetic marijuana products labeled as incense. Now with possession of certain types of incense illegal, it appears that lawmakers and regulators are focusing on bath salts.

However, these are not your ordinary bath salts. These bath salts contain two chemicals that are believed to simulate the effects of methamphetamine and cocaine. Sold under brand names including Ivory Wave, Bliss, White Lightening and Hurricane Charlie, the bath salts contain methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV) and mephedrone.

Throughout much of the country, the products are sold legally at convenience stores, tobacco stores and on the Internet as bath salts and plant food. Prices typically range from $25 to $50 per 50-milligram packet. The chemicals come in powder form, and they are commonly ingested by snorting, injection and smoking.

After a spike in calls to poison control centers, the chemicals in the bath salts earned the attention of state and federal lawmakers. Several states, including Florida, Louisiana and North Dakota, have already banned the chemicals. No federal ban is in place yet, but the DEA lists MDPV and mephedrone as drugs of concern and the agency will study the drugs in order to determine whether a ban is warranted.

The DEA could use its powers to ban the chemicals just as they banned the chemicals in synthetic marijuana products, but the process for doing so requires years of study. However, Senator Charles Schumer of New York has announced he will pursue a federal ban of MDPV and mephedrone. Schumer has said he will introduce a bill that, if passed, will make the chemicals federally controlled substances and people who possess them could face drug charges.

Sources:

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "Substance abuse now taking a bath," Sheila Byrd, 1/24/2011

Reuters, "Senator moves to ban drug sold as bath salts," Jonathan Allen, 1/31/2011

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