How Bath Salts Work

By: Nicholas Gerbis

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Author's Note: How Bath Salts Work

When a new drug hits the clubs or the streets, especially one as hotly and sensationally reported as bath salts, I cannot help but be reminded of the outlandish picture "Reefer Madness"-era Hollywood painted of marijuana. Was bath salts, I wondered, an example of similarly baseless panic, or were we witnessing something truly chilling, like PCP?

It was no idle question. The popular backlash that such media campaigns often fuel can lead government agencies to overreach or overreact -- which might not sound like such a bad thing to non-drug users until they come after our coffee, cigarettes, antidepressants or cough medicine ...

Proportionality and principles aside, politically motivated bans also tend to sidestep the scientific process of determining effects and risks, as British medical journal The Lancet objected when the U.K. Parliament passed its emergency ban of mephedrone. In the case of bath salts, however, the stories rang with unnerving truth, in light of which the DEA's exercise of emergency powers seems justified.

Still, I found myself left with more questions than answers. How bad might synthetic designer drugs become? How can medical professionals deal with such extreme consequences to body and mind, and how can we control such chimeric chemistry?

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