Crack is Wack

What’s the Deal With Bath Salts? FAQ on the Designer Drug

The ‘Miami Zombie’ reportedly was high on bath salts when he attacked his victim. The Daily Beast answers the question on everyone’s mind: what in the world are bath salts? Plus, see 10 signs of the Zombie Apocalypse.

Rogelio V. Solis / AP Photo

So what the heck are bath salts?

“Bath Salts” is the nickname for a type of designer drug that’s sold over the Internet, in head shops, and even at gas stations and convenience stores. They come in the form of capsules, powders, or tablets, and are snorted, injected, or swallowed.

What are bath salts made of?

Most bath salts contain one of two psychoactive chemicals: MDPV (also known as 3,4-Methylenedioxypyrovalerone) or mephedrone. Both are synthetic versions of a natural ingredient found in the East African khat plant.

“Bath salts” is a ridiculous name for a drug. Where did it come from?

No one knows for sure. But because MDPV and mephedrone occupy a gray area legally, distributors have marketed them as something else: plant food, bath powder, and yes, bath salts.

What do you mean by “a gray area legally”?

MDPV and mephedrone have been illegal in the United States since 2010, but the manufacturers try to avoid prosecution by slightly modifying the compounds to make them technically legal.

How much do bath salts cost?

About $25 to $50 per packet.

Will taking bath salts cause me to become a cannibal?

Unlikely. But the effects of bath salts are powerful. They stimulate the central nervous system like methamphetamines, plus cause hallucinations, and even psychosis. Other effects: agitation, suicidal thoughts, chest pains, high blood pressure, and rapid heartbeat. On the plus side, you can get a good deal of vacuuming done.

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But can bath salts kill me?

Yes. As with methamphetamines, the increased heart rate can cause a heart attack.

Sounds awful. What kind of genius is taking this drug?

“Youth in urban environments,” according to the Drug Enforcement Administration, with males appearing to use it more than females.

Is there a bath-salt epidemic sweeping the nation, or at least the inner city?

No. There is only one drug epidemic in the United States: the abuse of oxycodone-based prescription pain pills. There were more overdose deaths from prescription pills last year than from heroin and cocaine combined.

Wait a minute. I watch Breaking Bad. Isn’t meth the country’s most abused drug?

Not by a long shot. The federal government’s most recent survey on drug use says there are 353,000 regular users of methamphetamines. According to that same report, 7 million Americans abuse prescription pills.

What ever happened to other drugs I've heard of, like crack cocaine, which recently was featured in the critically-acclaimed HBO series Girls?

There's good news about cocaine: nationally use is as low as it’s been since the late 1970s. The number of people who’ve reported trying crack cocaine for the first time has also dropped: from 337,000 new users in 2002, to 83,000 new users in 2010.

Back to bath salts. Who’s making them?

Bath salts are manufactured and imported from Europe and China, according Glen Hanson, a professor at the University of Utah who’s done research on the drug. It may be a matter of time before they’re made closer to home. “As it becomes profitable, either drug cartels or individuals will invest in making it,” Larson said.

Can we stop calling them “bath salts”? It’s confusing.

It certainly doesn’t have the ring of “Ecstasy” or “Spice.” But it’s less of a mouthful than 3,4-Methylenedioxypyrovalerone.