Salts Tripping

Photo: Danny Kim

Sold as “bath salts,” the latest very-bad-for-you designer drug has nothing to do with the stuff that goes in a tub. Poison-control centers have already gotten more calls about the substances this year than all of last year, leading to cries for bans. The reason they’re still legal in most states: Until recently, about the only people to have heard of them were the drug-taking pioneers who document their trips online.

1. Purchase
The fine-grained, odorless powder—generally tan or brown in color but occasionally white—is sold in wallet-size plastic packets and clear jars for $25 to $50 per 250 to 500 milligrams. The drug can be found, according to the DEA, in “convenience stores, discount tobacco outlets, gas stations, pawnshops, tattoo parlors, truck stops” throughout the country (it’s also sold online). Containers are marked “not for human consumption,” to skirt regulations.

2. Consumption
Snorted; less regularly, injected, smoked, atomized, or swallowed.

3. Initial Rush
The active ingredients in bath salts are MDPV and mephedrone, synthesized drugs similar to the stimulant cathinone (found in the African plant khat). The drugs’ effects are most often compared to the surge of positive energy triggered by cocaine.

“T+60 minutes I had become transfixed with the laptop and was flat out on Facebook!” —HelsingTheDog, a poster on drug-experimentation forum Erowid

4. Hallucinations
Most users who report hallucinations do not point to them as a highlight of the bath-salt experience.

“I started to hear music following me, as if there were speakers on either side of my head. This actually seemed quite nice at first and was a happy bonus, [but] then I started hearing voices.” —LegalHighsForum user IvoryWaveWarning

5. Scarily Lingering High

“Went on walkabout in my town for 48 hours. I made no effort to contact friends and family so they reported me missing.” — user bubbles 69

“It has taken almost ten days to start feeling like the old me.” — user Cajeoct15

6. Cravings for More

“At about 1 hour and 10 minutes in I got the strongest urge to redose I have ever felt from a drug, including cocaine.”—Rational Cyborg, a Blogspot site

7. Physical Side Effects

Mild: A fortunate (and seemingly small) set of users can take the drugs without ill consequences.

“No bad side effects whatsoever, except for feeling like I was getting a cold, and I was angry, but that could be the day, not the drug.” — user Mephfiend

Moderate: Others experience jumpiness, severe insomnia, and gastrointestinal distress.

“My stomach cramped and I barfed hard.” —LegalHighsForum user UAintSmokinIfUAintChokin

Severe:“I went clubbing on my birthday weekend with three friends who’d bought some of this stuff, and whilst none of them met their untimely ends, all testified that it was one of the most unpleasant drug experiences that they’d ever had.” —HeadHeritage user Popel Vooje

8. Psychotic Breaks

Mark Ryan of the Louisiana Poison Center: “They think people are out to get them, that their families are trying to harm them, that something is planted in their body. In Kentucky, people have felt so threatened that they’ve gotten guns and gone out on their lawn and started shooting back into their house.”

Salts Tripping