Navy Works to Clean Up Problems with “Bath Salts,” Other Misused Designer Drugs

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By Sandra Basu

WASHINGTON — A new Navy Medicine public service announcement depicts a sailor snorting white powder, suffering disturbing hallucinations, then becoming violent. He eventually ends up in the hospital where he appears to have a seizure while medical personnel are trying to help him.

In addition to nightmarish visions and paranoia, bath salts can cause organ failure and, in rare cases, even death. An image from the video shows the difficulty of restraining users. — Images courtesy of U.S. Navy

The PSA called “BATH SALTS: It’s not a fad … It’s a nightmare,” is part of a new Navy Medicine campaign aimed at deterring military personnel from using the designer drugs which have effects similar to amphetamine and cocaine. The campaign includes the PSA video and a poster being distributed throughout the Navy.

“Bath salts” is the street name for the drugs, which often contain substituted cathinones.

We are trying to educate people that it is really like Russian roulette. Yes, you can take bath salts one time and maybe you will be lucky and have no serious effects; but the next time you do it may be the time that wipes you out,” Vice Adm. Matthew Nathan, MD, the Navy Surgeon General, told U.S. Medicine.

Synthetic drugs such as bath salts have been a growing concern in both the civilian and military sector. Controlling their use has been challenging because the drug’s active ingredients have been sold legally in stores and online labeled “not for human consumption” to skirt FDA oversight. Furthermore, manufacturers continually change the components of the products in order to make them difficult to be picked up in drug-testing and to get around federal laws.

Last summer, in an effort to crack down on their sale and use, President Barack Obama signed a bill banning the sale of 31 chemicals, including those commonly found in bath salts and Spice. Prior to that, the Drug Enforcement Administration also had already taken action to ban the sale of some of the chemicals used in these synthetic drugs.

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