Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) efforts to stop synthetic stimulants from finding their way to the street continue. First, the agency banned the chemicals that provided the high in fake marijuana (see LIFELINES, April 2011). Now,the focus is on “bath salts”. Last month, the DEA outlawed the ingredients that make these products similar to and just as dangerous as cocaine, LSD and methamphetamine.

Bath salts, which despite the name, have nothing to do with bathing, are sold at convenience stores, gas stations and over the Internet under labels like Blue Silk, Ivory Wave and White Lightening. Users inject, smoke and snort bath salts in order to experience euphoria and extreme energy. However, bath salts use can also create intense anger, hallucinations and paranoia. In some extreme cases, suicides and self-injury have been reported.

The new DEA ban makes it illegal to sell products containing mephedrone, methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV) and methylone. These are the chemicals in bath salts that create the high. They are now designated as Schedule 1 substances, the DEA’s most restrictive category that is reserved for substances where abuse is likely and which have no accepted use for medical treatment. For the next 12 months and with the possibility of a six-month extension, the DEA and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will conduct trials to determine if the ban should be made permanent.

People of all ages abuse bath salts, but they are especially popular among teens and young adults, and the DEA has received increasing reports pertaining to bath salts abuse. In 2010, poison control centers reported 303 calls related to bath salts. That number has increased dramatically this year. Between January 1 and August 31, poison centers received 4,720 calls related to bath salts use. The growing popularity of bath salts has led some employers to test for its abuse.

For concerns pertaining to bath salts, questions about poisons, or if you believe you’ve been exposed to something that could be bad for you, the American Association of Poison Control Centers(AAPCC) offers free, confidential services 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Call 1-800-222-1222.

The LHSFNA is committed to helping contractors keep their jobsites safe and free from drugs and alcohol as well as helping LIUNA members who have drug or alcohol problems. The LHSFNA has various educational and program materials available through the Fund’s online catalogue. The Fund also assists in all aspects of drug-free workplace programs, including policy review, employee or management training, implementing testing programs and rehabilitation.

[Janet Lubman Rathner]