Before Rudy Eugene, a Miami man known as the "Miami Zombie," viciously assaulted a homeless man, Ronald Poppo over Memorial Day Weekend, few people knew what bath salts were. The nation is now buzzing about this synthetic drug after it was revealed that the “Miami Zombie” may have been under the influence of bath salts when he performed an act of cannibalism on an innocent homeless man and was subsequently shot to death by a Miami police officer. Shortly after this news story broke a bath salt company known as AM-HI-CO sent out a Twitter Message offering discounted bath salts, which gained even more media attention because few knew that this dangerous drug can be obtained openly and locally in stores known as "head shops" and gas stations.
Now the million-dollar question is what are bath salts? Bath Salts are a synthetic drug capable of producing violent psychotic episodes. They are marketed as bath salts but labeled "not for human consumption" to avoid legal ramifications. However, the DEA has already issued a ban on the chemical compounds found in bath salts but companies slightly alter the chemical makeup of the drug and continue selling it under names like "Ivory Wave" "Bliss" and "Vanilla Sky."
The DEA ban came after emergency rooms and poison control call centers were flooded with an alarming number of cases of bath salt abuse in 2011. Emergency room doctors and nurses had reportedly never seen patients presenting such highly erratic psychotic, paranoid and violent behavior. This has caused a health conundrum because without knowing the exact chemical makeup of the drug there are no known pharmacological effects, antidotes or mechanisms to treat patients who have ingested or snorted bath salts.
The popularity of bath salts has grown over the past three years especially among teens and young adults who can easily obtain the drugs at local mini-marts and head shops. The rise of bath salt abuse is also reported among those who are routinely drug tested at treatment centers and sober living homes because they don't show up on drug tests. However, several drug testing labs can now test for chemicals in bath salts but the results take a few days – long after the physical, mental and societal harm has been done.
Breaking news stories such as the "Miami Zombie Attack" will serve to educate the public over the dangers associated with bath salts. The Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse put this crisis into perspective when she advised “I would like to urge parents, teachers, and the public at large to be aware of the potential dangers associated with the use of these drugs and to exercise a judicious level of vigilance that will help us deal with this problem most effectively.”
ABC News' Nightline reporter, Matt Gutman, offers a powerful report on bath salts: