Dickie Sanders, a BMX rider, is just one of the many cases to be added to the long list of those negatively impacted by the use of bath salts. What would cause a 21-year-old who seemed to have his whole life ahead of him to suddenly turn and attempt to cut his own throat and later take his own life with a single gunshot? Dickie’s abrupt turn occurred about a week prior to his death when he consumed a substance shared by a friend known innocently as “bath salts”.
According to information compiled by the Louisiana Poison Control Center in conjunction with the Poison Control Center of Kentucky, symptoms of those on bath salts range from violent to the downright bizarre. A database of cases recorded from both states indicated delusions of monsters, demons, and aliens. One instance documented a patient who opened fire on a passerby outside of a residence; another abandoned her 2-year-old daughter on a highway because she thought she was possessed by demons.
According to information found at PBS NewsHour, many bath salts contain a stimulant called methylenedioxypyrovalerone or MDPV. Experts say that ingesting the active ingredient is like consuming cocaine and amphetamine simultaneously, but tests show that MDPV is 10 times as potent as cocaine. Also, unlike other drugs whose symptoms usually subside within a few days, effects of bath salts have been known to persist for up to two weeks.
Aside from paranoia, hallucinations, and aggressive behavior, other common side effects of bath salts include high blood pressure, elevated heart rate, and seizures. It has been a constant battle to regulate bath salts as once one formulation is banned, a new one surfaces in a lab. Since potency levels and active ingredients vary, it has also been difficult for doctors to treat symptoms. Oftentimes the only thing that offers relief is strong antipsychotic drugs.
For many, bath salts are seemingly harmless because they can be purchased legally at some convenience stores. They also have become popularized because they don’t typically show up on drug tests. But experts warn that bath salts are anything but safe – according to U.S. Poison Control Centers, calls for poisonings related to bath salts were numbered at over 400 last June alone.
Unfortunately, for young adults like Dickie Sanders, it’s too late. It’s critical that parents be informed of this dangerous new trend. In many cases, the symptoms of drug use like bath salts can also contribute to chronic and serious depression, or may occur simultaneously with a mental illness like anxiety disorder. Contact Family Guidance Center for more information about recognizing symptoms of mental illness, and how to take steps toward an assessment. Mental health professionals at Family Guidance Center can also provide information about referrals to other community resources that can help.