DEA Bans Essential Chemicals In Bath Salts

Bath_salts_003The DEA is cracking down on bath salts!

Do you know about bath salts? They don't go in your bath. These semi-legal drugs, sold in head shops under names like "Vanilla Sky" and "Bliss," are usually snorted or ingested intravenously, and contain mephedrone and methylenedioxypyrovalerone, which are apparently real mind-benders. Bath salts first popped up in the media earlier this year, attached to all kinds of horror stories. In the New York Times this summer, we learned:

Poison control centers around the country received 3,470 calls about bath salts from January through June, according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, up from 303 in all of 2010.

“Some of these folks aren’t right for a long time,” said Karen E. Simone, director of the Northern New England Poison Center. “If you gave me a list of drugs that I wouldn’t want to touch, this would be at the top.”

… Some of the recent incidents [involving bath salt abuse] include a man in Indiana who climbed a roadside flagpole and jumped into traffic, a man in Pennsylvania who broke into a monastery and stabbed a priest, and a woman in West Virginia who scratched herself “to pieces” over several days because she thought there was something under her skin.

Does that sound at all familiar? Like those bogus stories from the 60's about nice suburban girls trying acid for the first time and staring at the sun until their eyes melted? Or the Reefer Madness-era stories about weed turning suburban boys into rape-crazy cavemen? 

Still. Just 'cuz drug opponents cried wolf once (twice, three times, whatever) doesn't mean they can't occasionally tell the truth. And those bath salt stories appeared in the Times! It's the paper of record!

And now, according to the Times:

The Drug Enforcement Administration took emergency action on Friday to ban three synthetic stimulants used to make products that are marketed at head shops and on the Web as “bath salts,” but are actually used as recreational drugs that mimic the effects of cocaine, LSD and methamphetamine.

The emergency measure places these substances — mephedrone, methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV) and methylone — under the D.E.A.’s most restrictive category for at least a year, while they study whether they should be permanently banned. This classification is reserved for substances with high potential for abuse and no accepted use under medical supervision.


  1. Marc C says

    I’ve talked to a number of professionals about bath salts including my own PCP. They’re right to ban them. Sometimes people are too stupid for their own good.

  2. johnny says

    I have no problem with the banning of these things.

    As for the people taking this stuff: The culling of the herd. Anyone stupid enough to ingest something that is clearly not meant for ingesting is probably not meant to reproduce or enjoy life for very long.

  3. DustmanG says

    We are pretty certain a guy driving a dump truck high on bath salts killed two family members earlier this month. Still waiting on toxicology and charges. Let’s ban it and not wait until more tragedy is suffered before level heads prevail. All that is lost in the mean time is a few people getting high and some easy profits for the head shops.

  4. Charlie says

    I have a good reason not to ban them: they’ll still get abused, only now the mob will make money on them, they’ll go underground so their effects can’t be properly monitored and hundreds and thousands of people will go to jail, overloading a system already at critical point. We go broke, the crims and corporate prison system get rich and the police get another stick to beat society with.

  5. Charlie says

    Oh someone think of the children. Uh, NO. Let them take care of themselves, based on proper education. Any chemical can kill: you can get high and die from inhalling deodorant. Stop pretending that drug-illegalisation works in any way.



  6. says

    I lived through the 60’s and some of those “stories” you allude to actually happened (only your eyes don’t melt; your retinas fry and you never see anything ever again). Just because Jack Webb did clunky, ham-fisted interpretations of those tales on Dragnet doesn’t mean they didn’t happen.

    But, hey, it’s your body, so whatever. (Don’t) see if I care.

  7. says

    Actually it is not a bogus story – A dear friend’s son started using this last year and it seriously messed up his brain, the doctors don’t know how long it will last. At the least parents and educators should know about this drug.

  8. gary says

    What’s with this blogger’s attitude? Calling bull when he knows nothing about the drugs?

    My local paper is littered with horror stories about bath salts. It causes extreme and dangerous paranoia/hallucinations.

  9. Cal says

    I found the attitude in this article puzzling as well. Then I looked and saw that there were new writers. Have to admit, I don’t get the perspective and “is this real” aspect. It’s common knowledge and has been for some time that this stuff is getting used this way. Anyway, I hope the writer will take the criticism and that this was just a misstep. No need for the conspiratorial slant. One of the things I like about Towleroad is that the opinions are sparse. Links to interesting stories and sometimes some questions about implications. This one struck a wrong chord with me.

  10. Brandon K. Thorp says

    Dear Gary:

    Thanks for reading. Hey! I’m not calling bull. Bath salts sound horrible, as I thought I acknowledged in the last paragraph before the Times quote.

    Point is, when the DEA and large segments of the mainstream media have a history of saying terrible things about *every* new recreational drug, whether it’s warranted or not, it becomes difficult to know when they’re serious. It seems like they’re serious this time — all the doctors stepping forward to talk about the weird cases they’ve come across seem to suggest so.

    – BKT

  11. James says

    I disagree that banning these dangerous “bath salts” would have no effect. Lots of people smoke marijuana regardless of potential legal consequences, BUT such softer drug users will be less likely to use something that they know is potentially lethal. Hopefully instituting a ban gets the word out.

  12. booka says

    Maybe i’m old fashioned, but, ‘Bath Salts’ do have a wonderful effect: IN THE BATH TUB. So, I’ll keep to that, luxuriating in my tub, whilst ‘natural selection’ works it’s way through the idiots that will do anything for a high.

  13. MaddM@ says

    this really is one where the horror stories are true, and unlike some other drugs it makes people very unstable, hostile, paranoid, and dangerous to themselves and others. I don’t think there would really be an underground market for this, because people use it as a legal meth replacement, and if you have to buy on the black market why not get the real deal? There’s a big market for people getting high on legal stuff because of availability and the inability for it to have legal ramifications until it is banned (see salvia divinorum, k2/spice/synthetic cannabinoids, bath salts)

  14. QJ201 says

    “Does that sound at all familiar? Like those bogus stories from the 60’s about nice suburban girls trying acid for the first time and staring at the sun until their eyes melted? Or the Reefer Madness-era stories about weed turning suburban boys into rape-crazy cavemen?”

    If I wanted snark I’d be reading another blog.

  15. Scotto X says

    Welcome to the site, Brandon.

    I do think you need to take critical reader feedback a bit better. You sound very defensive in your response above, and your defense doesn’t quite ring true.

    You talk about acknowledging that there may be some truth around negative neuropsychiatric effects of bath salts in the paragraph before the Times quote. However, your language in that paragraph minimizes that apparent acknowledgement (“…can occasionally tell the truth….”) and your description of the source is unnecessarily snarky and dismissive (“And those bath salt stories appeared in the Times! It’s the paper of record!”). The sarcasm in the post really does suggest your promotion of a rather pro-drug use mentality. While I disagree, you certainly should be free to do so if (1) you’re honest with yourself and your readers about your slant and (2) promoting such a position is consistent with the tone of the website as a whole. Folks are reacting primarily because Andy’s site has not tended to take such a stand on drug abuse issues, so your post seems quite a bit out of the norm.

  16. Dxx says

    These aren’t bogus stories. Bath salts have been a big problem in the UK for the last year, with several well-documented cases of psychotic breaks, violent behavior and death.

    That being said, people will snort anything they’re told will get them high, and making more and more common substances illegal because people choose to abuse them seems counter productive.

  17. MaddM@ says


    you have to admit there has been a lot of fearmongering perpetuated by the DEA and others regarding any and all recreational drug use to the point where there are a lot of so called authorities on drug use that have ruined their credibility completely. I think it’s healthy to question authority in cases where the authority has been proven to have been manipulative in the past.

  18. Rin says

    There is fear-mongering on the part of the DEA and other agencies that makes their stance on things such as this like the boy crying wolf.

    I can see where the OP could be cynical.

    Sometimes its just an attempt for control and sometimes the wolf does show up. If they were more honest about all drugs including marijuana and alcohol then maybe people would believe them more and take it seriously.

  19. Doug says

    #1 Who the heck do any of you think controls the distribution of the “smoke” shops wherein these “bath salts” currently get distributed…. #2 this is perfect example of why we need stronger inspections of our ports and borders for shipping problems… #3 If the US govt and UK govt wants to ban these drugs, then shut the factories down in the countries the operate… TO disguise these factories, like GLOBAL PLANT FEED in the UK as a agriculture plant food producer, when it makes this drug and ketamine, which any person will tell you is a tranquilizer for pets and is cooked to become Special K under the guise of “plat food” should be clear tip off it is an illegal manufacturer of drugs….

  20. David says

    Have people in this country become so desperate to escape reality they’ll resort to extreme psychosis? I know each individual makes their own choices but those choices have a social context. I thought meth was the limit for evil-inducing drugs, this is a new low.

  21. peterparker says

    Weed turns suburban boys into rape-crazy cavemen?! Damn. If I’d known that, I would have shared my weed with every one of the football players in my high school!

  22. ynot says

    Dear Brandon, ignore the troglaodyte trolls that this site seems to attract. I know exactly what you’re talking about: the hysteria that envelopes the society to ban things. Why it’s an epidemic of crazed psychopaths running rampant in the streets suffering from bath salts! What a sick joke.

  23. anon says

    The law of unintended consequences can’t be revoked. There’s a lot of magical thinking about how laws actually work. Now, there are plenty of horror stories about people on Ambien (an equally useless drug), but you don’t hear calls to ban it. The issue here is the fear that the drug engenders, not its true practical effects on society. Living your life in fear is a waste of time.

  24. denizon says

    What a bunch of miserable whining nellies! It was a light-hearted article about how these groups are constantly scapegoating some new “natural” high. There’s tons of this type of stuff in shops across the country, and not just “bath salts.” He was just having a little fun, while also pointing out a potential problem, and if you don’t like the tone, move on… histrionic rants on a Saturday night is just bad taste.

  25. bravo says

    Add my whiny voice to those criticizing the tone of this post. I’m impressed with the blogger’s attempt to call ‘reefer madness’ on bath salts. I initially thought it failed miserably.

    Then I used some bath salts, and I am totally on board with the idea that the government is causing problem and not the chemicals themselves. In fact, the government is listening to my thoughts right now. The paranoia I’m experiencing is even more awesome than meth paranoia!
    Keep bath salts available to destroy my brain!!!

  26. recovering addict says

    Although I don’t think a War on Drugs is the right course of action to combat the problems associated with addiction/alcoholism, I am currently in a drug treatment program, and have seen the direct effects of bath salts on people who are in there with me. It is truly terrifying to hear some of the personal stories. Many of the stories I have heard involve violence to the user, others, or both..

    As for the legal aspect of it, I don’t have a solution, but I think it would be unwise to brush off/downplay the dangers of bath salts simply because there are people who (foolishly) believe that banning all drugs are the solution to society’s problems..

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