Skip to content

New York City

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Designer drugs going by various names but most commonly by the name “bath salts” have made a significant inroad into New York City. Bath salts are actually a family of synthetic drugs that go by various names including:

  • MDMC (Methylone)
  • MDPV (Methylenedioxypyrovalerone)
  • 4-Methylethcathinone
  • Spice
  • K2

Early on, they were thought to be safe. However, only because they were too new to have been studied and made illegal. But that notion is changing quickly as the evidence of the behavioral and medical effects of the drug is seen.

Government Efforts to Fight Synthetic Drug Abuse

Bath salts are usually snorted or taken by mouth. Individuals can also smoke bath salts. They are stimulants, but often act as hallucinogens and can cause vivid hallucinations and paranoia. They can to lead to psychosis, suicides, and accidental deaths. The US government has banned these drugs, designating them as Schedule I controlled substances.

The state of New York has outlawed them as well, with a law focused on small-time manufacturers and distributors, often smoke shops and bodegas.

Bath Salts In New York City

The New York City office of the Drug Enforcement Agency created a Bath Salts Task Force. The efforts of this task force recently resulted in the arrest of 10 people in Manhattan and Brooklyn.

The US Navy, alarmed at the use of the drug among sailors, has released a no-holds-barred video entitled “It’s Not a Fad…It’s a Nightmare.” The video reenacts a psychotic episode induced by bath salts to scare viewers from using them.

Incidents Involving Bath Salts

Also, bath salts reached the attention of federal and state officials through an incident in Miami, Florida.

Other, similarly bizarre cases around the country involving the drug include:

  • A man in Texas on bath salts bit chunks out of the ears of his dog.
  • While under the influence of bath salts, a woman in Utica, New York attempted to bite a policeman.
  • A man in Louisiana, high on bath salts, bit his neighbor on the face.
  • A 35-year-old woman took bath salts for several months, as a means of losing weight.  Eventually, she became comatose, suffered brain damage, and finally had to be taken off life support.
  • An Arizona man high on bath salts stripped naked threw himself at walls.
  • In Washington State, a young couple on bath salts became involved in a high-speed chase. After their car crashed, the man shot his wife and committed suicide.

Bath Salts Abuse on the Rise

The federal and state governments have been spurred into action by nationwide statistics. Calls to poison control centers having to do with the use of bath salts jumped 700 percent in a recent year.

According to US Senator Charles Schumer of New York, a supporter of the federal ban: “We have seen bath salts catalyze some of the most heinous crimes in recent months across Upstate New York. And [this law] ensures that the federal government can fight this scourge with a united front, across state lines and at our borders.” On the state level, State Assemblyman Edward Braunstein of Queens, has proposed similar legislation.

What Others Say

Positioning these drugs for purposes other than human consumption is a typical dodge employed by head shops and other stores that market them.

Some varieties of the drug are actually marketed as real bath salts, (e.g., the kind you put in your bath). The drug, which in most of its varieties appears as a fine white or off-white powder bears a superficial resemblance to the bath product. This probably accounts for its curious name.

An incident in the Hell’s Kitchen section of Manhattan recently pointed to the irony of the name. In that incident, neighbors reported to police a noxious smell coming from an apartment. Responding to the report, the police searched the apartment. They found what appeared to be a drug manufacturing setup. They arrested the resident. Upon closer examination with some lab work, police released the man. He explained what he was really up to was trying to manufacture real bath salts — the kind you put in your bathtub.

Varieties and Brands

This incident illustrates a challenge facing drug-testing labs in New York and elsewhere. Underground chemists have proven very adept at creating more and more compounds to stay ahead of both the legislatures and the labs. Most of these new compounds are not detectable through methods already in place. So in general each new compound to hit the market necessitates a new test to detect it, putting financial pressure on already severely strapped labs.

Even existing compounds such as MDPV may be marketed under many different trade names. There are almost as many names for these drugs as there are manufacturers. Some of the more colorful names it is sold under include:

  • Cloud 9
  • Ivory Wave
  • Ocean
  • Charge Plus
  • White Lightning
  • Scarface
  • Hurricane Charlie
  • Red Dove
  • White Dove

Each of these brands is sold in head shops, convenience stores, and the like, in powder form in plastic or foil packages of 200 or 500 milligrams. Furthermore, they appear to have gained popularity amongst the recreational drug-taking community in part because they cannot be detected through ordinary urinary drug tests. As a result, they are favored by users already on probation or otherwise required to submit to drug screens.

Banned vs. Not Yet Banned

teen treatment and new york city

As mentioned above, Congress and the various state legislatures have tested their ability to keep up with the proliferating varieties of designer drugs. The Schumer bill covers no fewer than 31 separate substances. Yet, the potential for the creation and manufacture of new, uncovered compounds is virtually limitless.

New York City Families Have Options in Teen Addiction Treatment

teen treatment and new york city

Banning drugs gives law enforcement a tool for use in controlling their distribution and, to some extent, their use. However, it is not a perfect tool. Ultimately, the solution to the abuse of designer drugs such as bath salts has to lie with individuals and their families.

This is ultimately a social and a medical problem. It is not a legal or political one. As such, it represents yet another challenge to those in the profession of helping the user and their family.

For teens, especially, bath salts can be an alluring drug of choice. Easily purchased online, in head shops, in some convenience stores, and at truck stops, many teens find bath salts easier to buy than marijuana or alcohol. Because the drug is often technically legal teens feel safe experimenting with the substance, often taking large amounts, using it repeatedly, or combining it with other illicit substances.

If you believe that your teen is abusing synthetic drugs or any substance of abuse, you can and should take action immediately. At Newport Academy, we can help to educate your teen on the risks inherent to their substances of choice and help them to learn better coping skills when it comes to the management of stress, trauma, boredom, depression and other issues that often drive teen drug abuse. Contact us today at the phone number listed above for more information.