Missouri House reviewing ban on addictive 'bath salts'

Thursday, March 10, 2011
Materials marketed as bath salts that are used as drugs are shown in this photo submitted by the SEMO Drug Task Force.

With names like Cloud Nine, Euphoria and Bliss, a product some Missouri retail stores are marketing as bath salts don't appear as dangerous as lawmakers and state narcotics officers say they are.

The product, really a compound modified to produce a cocainelike high, is unsafe and addictive, according to the Missouri Poison Center, and has caused numerous hospitalizations in 2011.

The bath salts are legal in the state, although a bill that would ban the substance was recently reviewed by the Missouri House of Representatives General Laws Committee. The House Rules Committee will discuss the legislation next week, according to the bill's sponsor, Rep. Ward Franz, R-West Plains.

"In committee, an individual testified that someone died in St. Joseph [Mo.]; he committed suicide after taking it," Franz said. "It's a lot more dangerous than cocaine itself."

Available at some gas stations and head shops, the substance is marketed as a bath salt, but inside is usually a white powder that increases heart rate and often triggers hallucinations or panic attacks. Most commonly added to the compound is mephedrone (MDVP), according to Dr. Anthony Scalzo, medical director for the Missouri Poison Control Center at SSM Cardinal Glennon Children's Medical Center in St. Louis. Scalzo said in a recent news release that MDVP is a stimulant and its effects mirror those of Ecstasy.

The severity of the drug's effects vary, Scalzo said, but in the worst cases he has seen patients suffer from paranoia and severe hallucinations.

"One 22-year-old man I saw had cuts to his hands from banging on the wall of his home. While under the influence, he thought someone was inside the wall," he said.

In the first six weeks of 2011, the Poison Center received 34 calls related to "bath salt" exposures and 11 calls from people asking questions about the drug. According to Emily Sikes, Saint Francis Medical Center account services coordinator, their facility hasn't seen any emergency cases associated with the use of the drug. No physicians from SoutheastHEALTH were available to comment Wednesday.

People seeking to purchase the product at Hempies in Cape Girardeau won't find it, according to store manager Emily Beck.

Beck said she's never even considered carrying the product, although customers ask for it several times a week.

"We actually really love our customers, so we prefer not to put their lives in danger," Beck said. "And from what I understand it's a very dangerous product."

Capt. Tim Hull of the Missouri State Highway Patrol, after consulting the patrol's Division of Crime and Drug Control, said they've seen a "huge increase" in illicit use of bath salts all over the state. Possession of the product is legal, but selling it for illegal purposes, Hull said, is a criminal offense.

"We're running into a lot of situations where people are overdosing on it," said Kevin Glaser, Southeast Missouri Drug Task Force supervisor.

Much of the substance, he added, comes from outside the United States.

"It's put on the packets that it's not for human consumption, and by doing that they don't have to list any of the ingredients or compounds," Glaser said. "So they get away from the rules and regulations that the FDA puts on these products."

While crafting House Bill 64, Franz said, it was important to address new synthetic marijuana substances that have come on the market since the state passed a law last year banning K2. A separate stimulant, K3, was manufactured shortly after the law was enacted and with a compound not included in the legislation.

The bill is worded in such a way that all synthetic forms of a controlled substance, no matter what compound, are illegal to possess, manufacture and sell.

If the legislation makes its way through the House and Senate and is signed into law, it would take effect Aug. 28, although Franz said an emergency clause to make it take effect immediately isn't out of the question.

An emergency clause was voted down last year when the K2 ban was enacted.



Pertinent Address:

Jefferson City, MO

111 N. Main St., Cape Girardeau, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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