Lifestyle

'Bath salts' – not for the tub | Auburn's Dr. Petter

Dangerous designer drugs are being sold to the public as fake "bath salts."

These toxic chemicals are cleverly concealed, packaged and sold to the public. They are not intended to be sprinkled into bath water, but rather snorted into the nose, as they have an effect similar to cocaine and methamphetamine.

These synthetic drugs are commonly manufactured in China and India and imported worldwide. Until recently, these products were sold in all 50 states. Anyone can purchase them over the Internet, as well as in convenience stores, smoke shops and head shops (retail stores specializing in drug paraphernalia). They cost about $20 per gram, and are labeled "Ivory," "Zoom," Purple Wave," "Red Dove," "Vanilla Sky," and "Bliss."

These products are extremely dangerous and can lead to irreversible harm. Physical symptoms can range from chest pain to increased heart rate, elevated blood pressure and stroke. Psychologically, these chemicals cause anxiety, paranoia, agitation and hallucinations. These drugs have lead to cases of self-mutilation, car accidents, suicides and homicides. They are responsible for multiple deaths in Texas, Pennsylvania, Indiana and Washington.

The Washington State Poison Center (1-800-222-1222) has received a dramatic increase in calls this year, of which 50 percent are from hospital emergency departments. At this time, there are no drug screening tests to detect these chemicals. Assistance is being requested by health care providers for chemical identification and to help direct appropriate treatment.

As of April 15, the Washington State Board of Pharmacy filed emergency rules to ban the chemicals in "bath salts." However, this ban is only in effect for 120 days, thereafter authorities reevaluate the need for adopting permanent rules. Synthetic marijuana, sold as "K2" and "Spice," was banned in Washington state on Jan. 7, 2011.

Many states have banned these chemicals, realizing the serious abuse potential and health consequences. Currently it is illegal to sell, deliver or possess these products in Oregon, Idaho, Alabama, Florida, North Dakota, Louisiana, Virginia and Washington.

Additionally, many countries also have banned these products, including Denmark, Sweden, Britain, Finland and Ireland. It seems obvious and imperative the United States federal government follows suit, bypassing each state's individual evaluation/regulatory process, and immediately ban these products nationwide.

Dr. Linda Petter of Auburn is a weekly feature on the KOMO TV/News Radio (1000 AM & 97.7 FM) Sunday live at 7:45 a.m., and a columnist for the Auburn Reporter. Dr. Petter is chief of the Department of Family Practice at St. Francis Hospital in Federal Way. She is a consumer health care advocate, and her books, "Healthcare On a Budget" and "Common Medical Sense", are available on Amazon.com.  Please visit her website, www.docforall.com, or call her office at 253-568-0841.

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