Not since huffing spray paint and aerosols has a more seemingly innocuous product been used to get a high than that is creating a scare across the country and especially with parents.
Now you can’t even buy a can a spray paint at the Home Depot without flashing your driver's license. I imagine that bath salts will also follow in this vein if they don’t just get banned altogether in Pennsylvania and across the country.
For parents who don’t know, the common ingredients are methylenedioxypyrovalerone, or MDPV, and mephedrone, and, while the label on the package says they are for enhancing the bath this is just a cleaver ruse to disguise the real purpose of getting people high. Ingesting MDPV can cause chest pains, increased blood pressure, increased heart rate, agitation, hallucinations, extreme paranoia and delusions. Worst-case scenario: Bath salts cause suicidal thoughts and death.
The real danger of this drug is that some people take it and it has little or no lasting effect, while others take it and have what is equivalent to a psychotic break. Worse yet, some take it and it permanently alters their brain chemistry so that they are not the same person they were the day before. There are currently no studies or research to confirm the long-term effects.
Another important fact for parents: These drugs do not show up in drug tests.
The problem, though, is that aren’t the only household product that kids are crushing, inhaling or injecting to get high. Bath salts are really just the tip of the iceberg.
The American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC) issued a statement on May 12 saying, “The products, which are being touted as cocaine substitutes, have been sold on the Internet and, in some states, are being sold at gas stations and head shops.” Receiving more than 2,237 calls this year regarding bath salts, the AAPCC confirms an increase from the 302 calls received in 2010.
Bath salts are commonly labeled Ivory Wave, Red Dove, Purple Haze or Vanilla Sky in addition to those listed by the AAPCC—Ivory Wave, Ocean, Charge +, White Lightning, Scarface, Hurricane Charlie, Red Dove, Cloud-9 and White Dove. They can be purchased for as little as $10 a bag and as much as $30.
Gil Kerlikowske, director of the White House Office of the National Drug Control Policy, released a statement in February saying, “I am deeply concerned about the distribution, sale and use of synthetic stimulants -- especially those that are marketed as legal substances.” Kerlikowske continued, "At a time when drug use in America is increasing, the marketing and sale of these poisons as 'bath salts' is both unacceptable and dangerous."
Sure, the state Senate and House have now passed bills banning bath salts and synthetic drugs, but these synthetic drugs are being used because they mimic drugs that are illegal.
While Senate Bill 1006 and its House counterpart would ban the sale and distribution of these drugs, the differences in the two bills need to be resolved before it goes to the governor’s desk by June.
Still, what can parents do to stay a step ahead from the next seemingly innocuous substance used to mimic illegal drugs like marijuana, cocaine and now bath salts?
While Washington is willing to shake a scolding finger, saying this is “unacceptable,” it seems that little can be done but ask for I.D. for any products that can possibly be crushed, snorted or injected, including more products than any parent would even conceive of their child using to get high. Additionally, parents need to be the first line of defense so their children never seek the use of these deadly chemicals.
Parents have a moral obligation to educate themselves about possible products and talk to their children about the use and misuse of household products, including bath salts. This isn’t something that parents can shield their children from and it will just go away. Youth are learning about the use and misuse of products from their friends in school, in chat rooms on the Internet and from websites when surfing on the web.
Underneath this latest scare, parents have to ask: Why are so many kids trying to get high? Why is the demand for drugs so high that a child would raid their parents' medicine cabinet or start looking at cleaning products, fertilizers, insect repellent and even beauty products to get what amounts to a hallucinogenic high?
I think these are the real questions that the war on drugs has been neither able to answer nor willing to ask. Parents must start asking these questions and finding out the answers. No amount of education from schools or other institutions can replace the education about drugs that comes from within the home. The dialogue has to start early and the parental relationship needs to be strong in order to support honest discussion that needs to keep kids safe.
When talking to children and youth about drugs, illegal drugs should not be the only substances a parent discusses. Parents must be savvy to the potential hazards lurking in their cabinets and garage as well as the corner store.
Parents should look for unwarranted agitation, drastic mood swings and paranoia as well as any other changes in behavior. The best advice is to know your kids and look for any changes in their physical or mental state as well as to anticipate their curiosity and reach them before they reach out to someone else. These drugs are highly addictive and the best way to protect your child is to make sure they never start using them.
As a community, we must start examining the roots of why teens are increasingly turning to mind-altering drugs. We must be vigilant about the products, the access and availability of not only the drugs themselves but the access and availability to prevention resources for parents. There is no supply without the demand and parents need to band together to address the demand and distribution of these deadly drugs.