By Scott Prater
On the heels of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s temporary nationwide ban on the drug known as Spice, another synthetic substance designed to produce a legal high has hit convenience stores, truck stops and Internet websites.
Packaged as “bath salts” or “plant food,” these products contain stimulants which medical experts have compared to methamphetamine or cocaine. During the past eight months, police departments and hospital emergency rooms across the nation have reported isolated incidents of user overdoses and drug-induced suicides linked to these substances.
Though the powdery substance is available in Colorado Springs, reports of incidents involving the drug have been rare — so far.
“We haven’t seen anyone in our program related to the bath salts drug,” said Kathi Matthews, certified addiction counselor with AspenPointe Behavioral Services, a leading area mental health organization formerly known as Pikes Peak Mental Health. “But, from the research we’ve done we’ve learned it has become popular around the nation, not only among young people, but among women wanting to lose weight.”
For Air Force members, the use of the “bath salts” drug violates Air Force Instruction 44-121, which states that the knowing use of any intoxicating substance, other than the lawful use of alcohol or tobacco products, that is inhaled, injected, consumed or introduced into the body in any manner to alter mood or function is prohibited.
“Airmen who fail to obey AF policy face serious disciplinary and administrative actions,” said Capt. Sarah Dingivan, 50th Space Wing chief of adverse actions. “The offense constitutes a violation of Article 92, Uniform Code of Military Justice, which could result in, but is not limited to trial by court martial, nonjudicial punishment under Article 15 of the UCMJ, administrative admonishment or reprimand, administrative demotion, security-clearance revocation and involuntary separation with an adverse characterization of service.”
That said, Captain Dingivan hasn’t heard of the drug’s use by anyone connected to Schriever.
“We have heard reports of incidents associated with bath salts throughout the country,” she said. “Stories are popping up that this could be a potential new issue. Health professionals are comparing the drug’s effects to methamphetamine and it’s been dubbed ‘synthetic cocaine.’”
Similar to Spice, which was banned for a period of one year by the DEA during March, the bath-salts drug is marketed under various names and packaging. And though some labels clearly state, not for human consumption, word has spread about it intent and uses. Captain Dingivan figures it’s just the latest case of creative manufactures subverting the current drug laws.
According to the Louisiana Department of Behavioral Health, the chemicals within these products are Mephedrone and Methylenedioxpyrovalerone.
“The chemicals are known to have stimulant effects, but users are experiencing extreme paranoia and hostility,” said Mark Ryan, director of the Louisiana Poison Center. “Police have reported violent encounters with those high on the substance.”
Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal went so far as to ban the chemical ingredients during the month of January.
“The danger seems to be from the drug’s effects,” Ms. Matthews said. “The appeal comes from the stimulant, but the paranoia seems to be a lot more graduated with bath salts. The deaths occurring with bath salts are coming from suicides that stem from the paranoia.”
Young adults aren’t the only demographic affected by the new trendy powder.
“We’ve heard stories of women using this as a weight loss drug,” Ms. Matthews said. “People may ask why someone would consume a drug in which they have no idea of the contents, but kids are not going to care if they think it’s going to get them high and some people who think it will help them lose weight may be just as lackadaisical.”