On May 30, 2012, a man named Rudy Eugene assaulted a homeless man named Ronald Poppo in Miami, FL. Eugene, who was reportedly high on bath salts at the time of the attack, ate parts of Poppo's face and could not be deterred by authorities. Police shot and killed Eugene, and Poppo was admitted to the hospital with severe injuries to his forehead, eyes and nose. Poppo will need extensive reconstructive surgery to repair the damage done to his face and will be permanently blind as a result of Eugene's attack. On June 2, two different incidents related to bath salts took place. Brandon DeLeon, also of Miami, tried to eat the hand of an officer while growling, and Carl Jacquneaux of Louisiana tore of a chuck of his victim's face with his teeth. On June 12, 35-year-old Pamela McCarthy of Munnsville, NY, beat her three-year-old son after getting high on bath salts. She then stripped down naked and strangled her dog to death. Police tried to subdue McCarthy, but she scratched the face of the officer and pulled the officer's hair, while growling like a dog. McCarthy later died as a result of going into cardiac arrest after being tazed. With all of these incidents occurring in the past month, bath salts have been a recent focus of attention nation wide.
Bath salts is a common name for designer drugs containing methylenedioxypyrovalerone, or MDPV. When taken recreationally, MDPV has effects similar to methamphetamine, causing users to often times become violent and experience intense hallucinations. Until recently, bath salts had commonly been marketed at gas stations and convenience stores as a synthetic form of cocaine, with names like Ivory Wave, Vanilla Sky, and Bliss. This is much in the same way that Spice or K2 has been marketed as a synthetic form of marijuana. Due to incidents such as the ones previously mentioned, as of October 2011, bath salts have been banned in the United States. The DEA has classified MDPV as a schedule one drug, meaning it has a high potential for abuse and no known value as a treatment for any type of medical condition. The DEA is scheduled to reevaluate whether there should be a permanent ban on MDPV and the other chemicals used to make bath salts later this year.
The desired effects of using bath salts are similar to those of using any stimulant: increased energy and wakefulness, euphoria, socialization, ability to concentrate, sexual stimulation, and decreased need for food and sleep. What often happens instead is that users experience disturbing symptoms that can be terrifying, including difficulty breathing, severe paranoia, agitation, hallucinations, seizures and suicidal or homicidal thoughts and actions.
While some people may think bath salts are safe because of their past availability as a legal high, they have proven to be extremely dangerous. More research is needed to determine the exact detrimental effects of MDPV on the body, as researchers are not certain just how hazardous the substance can be. Although more information is needed, the public needs to be aware of the potential consequences for using bath salts in order to make better choices and prevent future incidents from occurring.
Jessica Parks is a certified alcohol and drug counselor in the state of Illinois and has her M.A. in art therapy counseling.