Maybe This Is Why the Authorities Are Worried About 'Bath Salts'?

The NY Times has a story about the rise in the use of 'bath salts' as recreational drugs. Bath salts have caused some users to have hideous psychological effects, including long-term paranoia, as well as dangerous reactions (spikes in body temperature and kidney failure). What are bath salts? Well:

Bath salts contain manmade chemicals like mephedrone and methylenedioxypyrovalerone, or MDPV, also known as substituted cathinones. Both drugs are related to khat, an organic stimulant found in Arab and East African countries that is illegal in the United States.

But this bit at the end of the NY Times story shocked me (italics mine):

Chief Hayes and other law enforcement officials said they had been shocked by how quickly bath salts turned into a major problem. "I have never seen a drug that took off as fast as this one," Chief Hayes said. Others said some people on the drugs could not be subdued with pepper spray or even Tasers.

Chief Joseph H. Murton of the Pottsville police said the number of bath salt cases had dropped significantly since the city banned the drugs last month. But before the ban, he said, the episodes were overwhelming the police and two local hospitals.

"We had two instances in particular where they were acting out in a very violent manner and they were Tasered and it had no effect," he said. "One was only a small female, but it took four officers to hold her down, along with two orderlies. That's how out of control she was."

Jeepers. The cops' Tasers were ineffective. Whatever shall we do?

That snark aside, bath salts are some really bad news. You're an idiot if you try them. Severe long-term psychological and health effects. What's even crazier is that some people are ingesting real bath salts (the perfumed stuff) which is also really dangerous.

People are fucking morons.

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Thinking of the way that tasers work, I question whether it's even possible for any drug to render the user immune to a properly-administered taser. I can believe that an intoxicated person might be able to ignore even a very high level of discomfort, but tasers don't work by solely by virtue of being painful.

Human beings are prewired to seek out, explore, and play with their own consciousnesses. Meditation, certain religious practices, fasting, prolonged exercise, are all popular with certain people because of this and all are potentially addictive to some subset of people. Drugs are just another way to alter your reality.

People will always, like water seeking its own level, find the most high for the least amount of money and inconvenience. Just as predictably there are always people seeking to exploit this tendency to make money.

Kind of like George Carlin's statement that 'if you nail two things together, that have never been nailed together before; some schmuck will buy it from you'. It is predictable that any bathtub chemist who mixes up something that alters consciousness will find a market. Some people just don't care if it destroys their mind and/or body. But most people aren't that way. They do care and only mess with the dangerous stuff because the relatively safe stuff is physically or economically unavailable.

Several decades ago a professor of pharmacology, during a lecture I attended, pointed out that while the "hard stuff", heroin, was problematic it was far less biologically toxic than many other alternatives. Even way back then he was talking, without ever mentioning the concept, harm reduction.

People want to get high. Always have and always will. Bath salts and 'crocodile' are just manifestations of this human tendency.,8599,2078355,00.html

In either case are the consequences of controlled heroin or methadone use worse than 'bath salts', 'crocodile'? Or meth and crack?

IMHO, prohibition hasn't worked. Time to make intelligent choices as to the forms people's tendency to get high will take.

Regarding Taser immunity via drugs, powerful neuromuscular blockers might work. Of course, the end result would still be complete lack of control of muscles, but at least it wouldn't be the Taser that's causing it...

From a purely technical perspective these things are brilliant: they are absolutely guaranteed to disable any human being in almost any situation -- heck, they are better at this than 12 gauge buckshot -- and yet they are less likely to cause serious injury or death than even far less effective alternatives.

I can only imagine the amount of flack these tools get is because of how freely they are employed by police in the US. That's risk compensation for you. I guess when it comes to use-of-force in law enforcement, people tend to prefer the "massive spike attached to the steering wheel" approach to the "seat belt and air bag" one.

By Grim Redeemer (not verified) on 17 Jul 2011 #permalink

The thing to understand is that young humans (esp. males) are programmed to do their best to kill themselves. This is a very useful trait when the tribe needs some idiot to go after a cave bear, or when they need cannon fodder in a territorial issue with another tribe.

Some, of course, don't succeed. They go on to breed.

I see a lot of this as an emergency medic. The problem is that we've actually made it much more difficult for them to kill themselves today, so they just try harder.

By D. C. Sessions (not verified) on 17 Jul 2011 #permalink

D. C. Sessions, that was a brilliant explanation!

By Kevin Nasky (@… (not verified) on 17 Jul 2011 #permalink

People are fucking morons.


It's been a while since I studied cell membrane potentials (i.e., the Clinton Administration), but I believe the inhibitory effects of MDPV and its analogs on dopamine (and norepinephrine?) re-uptake also ramps up action potentials in the CNS; I wonder if the change in neuron action potential swamps the effect of the Taser's electrical discharge. A significant increase in skeletal muscle action potential would also help explain why it took four cops and two orderlies to restrain a small woman.
That said, I'm with Kevin: I prefer D.C. Sessions' explanation, too. The only quibble I would have is that it's more accurate to say that many, rather than some, unsuccessful idiots go on to breed, which is the reason an enormous percentage of the population is homozygous for idiocy.

As the infamous lady said... Let them eat bath salts.

I better stack up on bath salts for my bath before the nitwits in government banned the stuff.

It never ceases to amaze me what stupid $%#& people will get up to.

By helen jones (not verified) on 18 Jul 2011 #permalink

they went the same way with the reporting when crack first hit the streets.then it was "i shot this big black guy five times and he kept coming at me!!"..remember that?there never seems to be anything on the hellish effects on the user and their family/friends until we are up to our necks in the problem,just "to crazy to shoot" kind of news.

I am deeply skeptical whenever I see an anecdote that says someone is "so crazy from (insert drug here)" that they are able to withstand shots, tasers, whatever.

I recall reading similar accounts of marijuana (dating from the 20s and 30s I think). And remember PCP? PCP, for those too young to remember much of it, renders you pretty incoherent and unable to tie your own shoes. It does not make you superhuman (though the anaesthetic effects might make you unable to feel it as much when you hurt yourself).

I certainly think the bath salts are a tremendously stupid thing to do. But I detect a whiff of "reefer madness" here.

taser invulnerability? maybe if the drugs make them think they have to wear chainmail shirts at all times.

@#9: firearms are unpredictable, and pistols aren't nearly as powerful tools as people think; depending on where a bullet goes and just what it does, stopping someone from fighting by shooting them can be a tricky proposition. ask a hunter what an even lethally wounded game animal might do before it finally drops. but tasers work by putting electric current right through your muscle tissue; there's not really much bypassing that.

By Nomen Nescio (not verified) on 19 Jul 2011 #permalink