The “Bath Salts” Problem Is Rapidly Getting Worse

It's no news that people want to get high.  The urge to turn off our brains for a while, or do something that just feels good, goes back at least 8,000 years.  We know that because the ancient Sumerians wrote about beer on tablets that have lasted until the present day.  There is every reason to believe that our romance with intoxication goes much farther back than that — probably to the time when one of our hunter-gatherer ancestors first discovered that spoiled fruit could give a guy a buzz.

So it's no surprise that entrepreneurs keep trying to stay ahead of the law by developing and marketing drugs that start off more-or-less legal due to the inability of regulators to keep up with the changes.  The way laws are currently written, if a drug isn't specifically mentioned in a statute it's pretty hard to prosecute someone for possessing it, and even harder to charge anyone who sells it.

Thus, we have “bath salts,” the current entrepreneurial emesis.  Unconcerned with details like clinical trials and the variety of other checks and balances needed to gain approval for mainstream pharmaceuticals, the manufacturers of these designer drugs make them available to a public that is absolutely at their mercy.  At the same time, web sites like “” and “” promote the alleged safety of the drugs as a “public service” (most of them actually designed to provide guidance to outlets that sell them online).

The active ingredients in most bath salts are the chemicals methylone, MDPV, mephedrone and flephedone.  Sometimes referred to as “copy-cat cocaine,” these drugs — all chemically-related — are central nervous system stimulants.  MDPV (Methylenedioxypyrovalerone), after which most of these drugs are modeled, is a modification of pyrovalerone, a drug that was investigated about 50 years ago for use as a weight control medication and to combat fatigue.  It never got to market because of its abuse and addiction potential.  MDPV is known to be several times as potent as methylphenidate (Ritalin), itself a drug with considerable potential for abuse.

Most of the drugs on the market today are analogues (slightly-changed chemical copies) of MDPV.  Thus they share its drawbacks, along with some of their own.  For example, the changes made in their structures to avoid legal issues are untested, and their effects largely unknown.  Furthermore, they are unstable when exposed to air, and often degrade into other compounds with unknown qualities.  Possible reaction with additives, packaging, or with compounds added by users, can create further complications — all problems unlikely to occur with regulated pharmaceuticals.  As a result, what you think you're seeing is not necessarily what you get.

We are beginning to see more and more headlines such as “Report: Bath salts killed Tampa man,” and “America's New Drug Problem: Snorting ‘Bath Salts'.”   We will see more, because problems with users of bath salts are becoming more common.  In one case, in Panama City, Fla., several officers were needed to subdue a man who tore a radar unit out of a police car with his teeth!

Bath salts are used because they promote euphoria, increased energy, sociability, wakefulness, and have some sexual stimulant effects.  On the other hand, adverse effects include (but are not limited to) rapid heartbeat, high blood pressure, insomnia, nausea, tooth grinding, headaches, kidney pain, dizziness, agitation, difficulty breathing, and increased body temperature, chills and perspiration.  At least one death was caused when the MDPV analogue methylone caused the brain of a 23-year-old man to swell due to lack of oxygen, and an accompanying high fever that shut down his kidneys and other organs.  The possibility of drug use triggering and exaggerating users' existing physical or mental problems is yet another risk.  Nor is it a small one, as those with such issues are far more likely to resort to self-medication than others.

The solution, if there is a good one, will most likely be found in education combined with laws that are written to close the  loopholes that enable sale and possession of these drugs without fear of prosecution.  The Federal government is investigating the possibility of a nationwide ban on unchecked use of the components involved, which may make pursuit and prosecution of the manufacturers and sellers more practical.  As it is, substance abuse treatment personnel report more mentions of bath salts during intake, indicating use is on the rise.  Actual treatment protocols have yet to be established, however, and there is some question whether users of these “unofficial” drugs will qualify for insurance coverage.

More, as they say, will be revealed.  In the meantime, parents and other interested parties need to be on the lookout for possible drug-related behavior in loved ones, friends, and others they care about.  Until we get some sort of handle on this problem, these drugs — sold in convenience stores, gas stations, head shops and similar outlets — will remain readily available to potential users of all ages.


Kids With ADHD Show A Higher Risk For Substance Abuse Problems

Two recent large studies reflect growing evidence that ADHD increases children's risk for abusing tobacco, alcohol and other drugs when they are older.

Note: The article mentions a relationship between conduct disorder, in which juveniles show poor impulse control and a disregard for rules, and drug use in general — including alcoholism.  A careless reading could give the impression that the author is stating that all alcoholics have conduct disorders.  This is emphatically not the case.  The remarks refer to a specific subset of young people with ADHD, and not to the population at large.

Read the article at Scientific American

Former drug addict devotes his time to helping others

Great article and interview with Ira Levy, national marketing director for Sunrise Detox.  Ira has been in the treatment field for many years, and has tremendous insight into the various aspects of treatment and recovery.  Interesting read.

Chaz Shares About “Outside Help” in Recovery

Alcoholics and other drug addicts in recovery sometimes run into problems beyond the ability of the recovery fellowships. There's a comment about this over on “Putting The Pieces Together”, left by Chaz, of Chaz Recovering.  It's worth a read.

I have often heard said by many 12 step members that “The Program” is all we need. To them I would suggest, “speak for yourself”.  Read more…

Self-Image For Addicts

We need to remember that much of what we now know about addiction was not even dreamed of in the philosophy available to those who founded the 12-Step organizations.

While obviously respecting the Steps, Traditions and the groups, Digital Dharma has posted this essay about considering ourselves and our addictions with a bit more clarity in the light of modern knowledge:

“I was considering the way some of us in the rooms seem to think of ourselves, based on the way we talk. We say, ‘I’m not a bad person trying to get better, I’m a sick person trying to get well.'  Then we continue talking about our shortcomings and defects of character. We say things like ‘I’m an alcoholic, and my problem is Bill.'   (I don’t measure up; I’m defective; I’m a problem.) That is not an affirmation….”

Read More on Digital Dharma…

The Hidden Pain of the Addicted Family

Dr. Tian Dayton, a survivor of an addicted family, gives a clear explanation of the ways drug addiction and/or alcohol abuse affect the addict's loved ones.

In the 1960s, when my Dad got treatment, we all thought that once the alcoholic got sober, the rest of us in the family would sort of get better automatically. Normalcy would be restored and we could all go on with our lives as if addiction had never really been there. We weren't total idiots, that's what everyone thought. That's what a lot of people still think, in fact.

If you happen to think this, I will save you a lot of time and heartache. It's not true. It's not true because addiction is not only about addiction, it's about emotional and psychological trauma….

The Hidden Pain of the Addicted Family

It Works If You Work It

My wife and I are taking the next few days off. We're driving up to Melbourne, where she will attend a conference of addiction counselors while I goof off, take pictures, and find things for us to do in her off hours. We'll probably catch a meeting or two. A seaside hotel, ocean view. What's not to like?

What does this have to do with recovery? Everything! A little over twenty years ago she was unemployed, I was close to it, and we were practically non-functional drunks. If we hadn't sobered up, there is no question we would have died soon.

What a difference! She's respected in her field, and I in mine. We are each other's best friends — and I don't mean that in the smarmy “I married my best friend” way. I married a drunk, then proceeded to finish becoming one myself. The first nine years of our marriage could not be described as friendly, and the first few years of sobriety had their moments as well. But today we are each the one the other comes to to talk over the “stuff” that best friends talk about, and that's the best definition I know.

Our kids call us up because they like to talk to us. Employers give us raises because we do a good job. We each contribute to the recovering community outside of work. We participate in the political process. We are good citizens and good neighbors. We love our lives (mostly) and feel good about ourselves. We have a new car, no longer the junkers with crap on the dashboard that we drove back in The Day. People seem to enjoy our company. Most of our relatives seem to think we're OK. Neither of us has threatened to kill the other in so long that it all seems like a dream (although we're careful that we don't forget).

I ain't braggin', I'm just sayin'. There's nothing to brag about. Our little working vacation and all the other good things that we have today are a direct result of getting clean and sober, participating in the recovery community and working a good program ourselves. It's not because we worked harder, or are more deserving, or because we are “blessed.” It's because we're sober. Sober, we live. Drunk we are miserable and die. As simple as that.

It works if you work it.