Dangerous Bath Salts All the Rage and We’re Not Talking “Mr. Bubble”

On the heels of synthetic marijuana (K2/Spice), the basement chemists are already at it again. This time they are passing something off as a bath product when it is a designer drug based on amphetamine.

Designer drugs are actually an offshoot of a legitimate search for better medications. Whenever we, the medical community, find a medication that works, we try to improve it. I would like to tell you that the entire medical/pharmaceutical industry has nothing but the noblest of intentions, but a great deal of money is made on a “new” medication.

A pharmaceutical research team will try dozens of small modifications on a particular medication. Some won’t work, some might be toxic, and occasionally one is a better medication. Maybe it lasts longer so it doesn’t have to be taken as frequently. This also, not coincidentally, happens to get around the patent. Change one atom in the drug molecule and you have a new patentable drug to compete with the original. It also won’t test like the original.

Designer drugs are just variations of illegal drugs, attempting to get a stronger effect, or at least to change it enough, to get around drug laws. Ecstasy is a minor variation on Dextro-amphetamine.

Bath Salts are another variation of an amphetamine. The chemical name for so-called “bath salts” is MDPV (Methylenedioxypyrovalerone). MDPV shares a lot of the properties of its parent drug, Dextro-amphetamine. It is a stimulant and an appetite suppressant, but in some cases acts like a hallucinogen. It is believed to be roughly four times stronger than its parent drug, and that is problematic because people dose the drug in similar quantities as amphetamine.

The stimulant effects are physical as well as psychological. The extra alertness comes at the expense of an elevated heart rate, hypertension and physical alertness similar to the uncomfortable effects of adrenalin fight-or-flight response. Not exactly the clearheaded intense focus that its users are seeking.

Some rather nasty things are occurring with higher frequency than amphetamines or Ecstasy, its closest relatives. Psychologically, MDPV can cause hallucinations, delusional thinking and severe paranoia. Physically, we have seen a rapid breakdown of muscle, usually resulting in kidney failure and death.

MDPV is illegal in only a handful of states and the federal government has not yet acted on this new drug. There are emergency scheduling laws that allow the DEA/federal government to expedite a ruling on this drug. It will likely be illegal under federal law very soon.

These days the drug screen laboratories can come up with a test for these drugs faster than they can be made illegal. Testing for MDPV is available now and is a straightforward urine drug screen. It can be added to any non-DOT urine drug screen for a modest charge. The detection window for MDPV is about three days; which is longer than the 24 hours that Dextro-amphetamine is present.

We offer full MDPV testing at U.S. HealthWorks.

Take care.

Dr. Don Bucklin, MD
National Medical Review Officer

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