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The Dangers of 'Bath Salts'—Linked to the Miami 'Zombie' Attack

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The street drug "bath salts" is being blamed for the recent Miami "zombie" attack, in which 31-year-old Rudy Eugene stripped off all his clothing and attacked Ronald Poppo, 65, devouring the majority of his face before police shot him to death, reported The New York Times.

Bath salts—synthetic stimulants that mimic the high felt on methamphetamine or cocaine—are generally ingested, snorted or injected like any crystal rock or powder, according to the Narconon Drug Rehab Blog News Center.

The list of horror stories associated with the use of bath salts goes on: In Indiana, a man on bath salts reportedly climbed a roadside flagpole and jumped into traffic, reported the Times. A Pennsylvania man, after using the drug, broke into a monastery and stabbed a priest. Also under the influence of bath salts, a woman in West Virginia scratched herself “to pieces” for several days on end because she believed there was something under her skin.

Side effects of the drug often include: "severe aggressiveness, paranoia, psychosis, depression, suicidal thoughts and even death," stated Discovery News. Some people may experience "unusually dangerous and long-lasting effects," Karen E. Simone, director of the Northern New England Poison Center, told the Times. "Some of these folks aren’t right for a long time. If you gave me a list of drugs that I wouldn’t want to touch, this would be at the top.”

In September, the federal Drug Enforcement Administration issued a temporary ban on three of the ingredients commonly found in bath salts, reported The U.S. Senate in a 96-1 vote approved a Food and Drug Administration bill on May 24 that includes a ban on synthetic chemicals used to make bath salts, reported the Bangor Daily News. The measure must be reconciled with the Synthetic Drug Control Act of 2011, passed by the U.S. House of Representatives on December 8, 2011. The Act would penalize those caught dealing the listed hallucinogenic synthetic drugs—including methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV), the active ingredient in most bath salts—with up to 20 years in prison. President Barack Obama is expected to review a final version of the combined House and Senate bills in early July, according to the Bangor Daily News.

At least 38 states have legislatively banned substituted cathinones, also known as bath salts, states the National Conference of State Legislatures website. The drug could soon be outlawed in Massachusetts as well, reported the

But the drug is widely available online and can still be found in unregulated smoke shops, convenience stores and among various reservation vendors, Walter Lamar, president of Lamar Associates, told Indian Country Today Media Network. Lamar is an enrolled tribal member of the Blackfeet Nation of Montana and descendant of the Wichita Tribe of Oklahoma. He formerly served as a FBI special agent and deputy director of the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) Law Enforcement division.

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"A lot of folks do not have the awareness or the understanding to recognize if a person is using synthetic cathinones [bath salts] until something bad happens—like a kid overdoses or someone goes crazy like this guy down in Florida, chewing somebody’s face off," Lamar said.

The St. Regis Mohawk Tribal Council passed a resolution January 10, declaring a ban on products known as synthetic cannabinoids, generally marketed as "herbal incense," "herbal smoking blends," "bath salts," and "spice." The Seneca Nation similarly took action against the drug when the Tribal council voted March 10 to ban the sale and distribution of synthetic marijuana, bath salts and drug-use paraphernalia within its five territories.

Synthetic cathinones, as Lamar prefers they be identified, are often sold under deceptively innocuous names, such as: "Ivory Wave," "Purple Wave," "Red Dove," "Blue Silk," "Zoom," "Bloom," "Cloud Nine," "Ocean Snow," "Lunar Wave," "Vanilla Sky," "White Lightning," "Scarface," and "Hurricane Charlie," according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

"We can’t be calling it bath salts, marijuana, spice, glass cleaner," Lamar said. "We can’t call it that, because it's not that at all. When we hear these names, we don’t think it dangerous, because, 'It's just bath salts, right?' It isn’t. It’s dangerous chemical compounds; it's not marijuana. It's just dangerous, nasty chemicals."

Street names and flashy appearances make these drugs appealing to kids, Lamar said. "They are being marketed to young people—in shiny little packages with cool names and pictures on them. Then kids end up overdosing or getting so paranoid they kill themselves. There all kinds of terribly dangerous side-effects."

The packaging of nearly all bath salts states the disclaimer, “not for human consumption,” to skirt any laws prohibiting their use. "'Not for human consumption' means absolutely nothing," Lamar said. "They are sold for one purpose and one purpose only—and that's human consumption."

According to Lamar, Indian Country has an obligation to ban the sale of this lethal drug. "It has to be our communities and Tribal leadership monitoring any stores, any outlets where synthetic cathinones might be sold on the reservation. They need to send a letter stating, 'This is not acceptable'—that they don’t care what is says on the packaging or what chemicals are in it. They have to say, 'This is not tolerated on the reservation.' It has to be a grassroots effort on the reservations."