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

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

Video Secret Service Chief Under Fire for White House Security Breach

Julia Pierson faces tough questions from lawmakers after recent intrusion at White House, says: 'It is clear that our security plan was not executed properly' More

Frustrated, Liberian Students Want Ebola Fight Role

Thousands have volunteered to go to counties, rural villages to talk to people in their language about deadly virus More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihadi
X
Mahi Ramakrishnan
September 30, 2014 2:16 PM
Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid