In the past 18 months, the designer drug known colloquially as "bath salts" has been touted in the media as the latest threat to melt a generation of teenagers' minds. The mass-marketed fear comes complete with anecdotal horror stories of people's behavior under the drug's influence, each more disturbing than the last, and the hysteria reached its crescendo this week when bath salts were blamed for a Miami man's turn as a face-eating cannibal. But is this drug really as scary as it's being reported, or are we just in the midst of yet another societal panic, fueled by sensationalized accounts of a substance about which we still know very little? To find out, we found several people who have ingested bath salts and were willing to share their stories.
"Bath salts" (known alternately as "plant food" or "meow meow") are sold in powder form that can be eaten, snorted, smoked, or injected. The street names don't describe one specific drug, but rather could refer to either mephedrone (a synthetic stimulant) or methylenedioxypyrovalerone (known as MDPV, a stimulant and psychoactive drug). Each of these purports to produce effects similar to the euphoria of MDMA (Ecstasy) and the alertness of cocaine or amphetamines. They are not hallucinogens. Although the drugs were first developed in 1929 and 1969 respectively, they didn't become popular for recreational use until around 2004, and didn't come to mainstream attention until 2011, so little is known about long-term use. However, a recent study published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology found that the designer drugs have a similar affect on the brain as Ecstasy, but without the link to long-term depletion of serotonin that's associated with MDMA. So if scientific studies show that bath salts are less harmful to the brain than MDMA, why are people seemingly flipping the fuck out?