News / USA

Synthetic Drug Problematic for US Authorities - Part 1 of 2

There is no detection test and no federal law on bath salts, a drug that causes violent, unpredictable actions.
There is no detection test and no federal law on bath salts, a drug that causes violent, unpredictable actions.
AUGUSTA COUNTY, Virginia - A new synthetic drug, commonly called bath salts, hit America's streets a couple of years ago, but it went unnoticed until police began reporting cases of addicts with bizarre behavior.  Then, last month, authorities in Miami, Florida accused a man of eating another man's face.

It's calm now.  But it hasn't always been like this for Ashley. Last year, she awoke one morning inside a car, with no shoes and the temperature minus 8 degrees Celsius.  She says she was high on bath salts.

"This drug is psychotic. It is a crazy thing that no one should mess with," said Ashley.

Like most users, Ashley snorted this synthetic drug to get high. It looks similar, but is not the bath salts people use to soften bathwater.

Doctors say bath salts put users into a state of excited delirium. They are paranoid, super human - on a long-lasting high.

Addicts are often violent.  A man took off his clothes and allegedly bit off the face of another.  In another incident Police say a woman stripped and attacked her three-year-old son and her pit bull dog.
 
Calls to poison centers across the country have gone from none three years ago, to more than 6,000 last year.  Dr. Paul Stromberg of the Virginia Poison Center says hotline workers now know the symptoms.

"Patients have to be subdued by multiple police officers.  And, for whatever reason, every time you hear somebody is taking their clothes off, that usually is a bath salt case," said Stromberg.

Researchers at the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine have just discovered why bath salt drugs are so powerful. Louis DeFelice says they change the brain composition and act as if they are a mix of two drugs.

"This is a very powerful methamphetamine and very powerful, long lasting cocaine," said DeFelice.

Mephedrone is one of the main chemicals in bath salts.  It can have hundreds of variations, making detection virtually impossible.  So once one variation is banned, the kitchen chemist simply mixes up a different one.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has placed a temporary ban on bath salts.  Congress is trying to write a law to encompass all the mephedrone compounds.

In the meantime, all these bath salt knockoffs are legal in most states, and readily available.

Since this story was published, a toxicology report released by Miami-Dade Medical Examiner's office in Florida states the man involved in the face-biting incident had only marijuana in his system, not synthetic drugs such as bath salts, as previously reported.


Carolyn Presutti

Carolyn Presutti is an Emmy and Silver World Medal award winning television correspondent who works out of VOA’s Washington headquarters.   She has also won numerous Associated Press awards and a Clarion for her coverage of The Syrian Medical Crisis, Haiti, The Boston Marathon Bombing, Presidential Politics, The Southern Economy, and The 9/11 Bombing Anniversary.  In 2013, Carolyn aired exclusive stories on the Asiana plane crash and was named VOA’s chief reporter with Google Glass.

You can follow Carolyn on Twitter at CarolynVOA, on Google Plus and Facebook.

You May Like

Reports of Mass Murder on Mediterranean Smuggler’s Boat

Boat sailed from Libya with 750 migrants aboard and arrived in Italy with 569 More

Video New Thailand Hotline Targets Misbehaving Monks

Officials say move aims to restore country’s image of Buddhism, tarnished by recent high profile scandals such as opulent lifestyle, drug and alcohol abuse, as well as child sex abuse More

Study: Dust from Sahara Helped Form Bahama Islands

What does the Sahara have in common with a Caribbean island? Quite a lot, researchers say More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Astronauts Train in Underwater Labi
X
George Putic
July 25, 2014 7:25 PM
In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid