Illinois Congress passes bill banning bath salt being used as drug

Susan Du

A bill banning bath salts, which caused the death of an Illinois woman last month, recently passed in both the Illinois House and Senate and now awaits Gov. Pat Quinn’s approval.

The type of bath salt targeted by lawmakers is not the kind typically sold in body care and aromatherapy shops for bathing use. Rather, this yellowish-white powder is a hallucinogenic stimulant more commonly smoked or snorted to achieve a cocaine-like high.

Methylenedioxypyrovalerone, one of the primary chemicals in bath salt, causes increased blood pressure, increased alertness and restlessness. Though MDPV is technically legal in the majority of U.S. states, it has recently stirred controversy in Illinois for contributing to the death of an Alton, Ill. woman who overdosed on bath salt.

Chief David Hayes of the Alton Police Department said although an emergency ban was instated the very night the woman died, he and other opponents of MDPV are asking the state legislature to make the provision permanent.

“We heard about it down south last fall, but it did not filter into our area until January or February this year when we found it in several of our mom-and-pop stores,” Hayes said. “This (drug) is more deadly because it takes about twice as large dosage to get the same high the second time. It puts the body into overload, shuts down organs.”

MDPV products are currently being sold on the Internet as well as in independent stores, smoke shops and gas stations. They are usually marketed as research chemicals and fertilizers.

Adam M., owner of EastCoastChems.com who asked his last name be withheld, sells a variety of research chemicals online. He said he has recently discontinued sales of MDPV because of “rising legal and political concerns.”

“The idea is that none of these materials are for human consumption,” Adam said. “Abuse of the chemicals gets in the way of future legitimate use.”

Adam said although he knows some people are directed to his site through online drug forums, he doesn’t have any control over how customers use his products. He added that he strongly discourages use of his chemicals for anything other than research.

“That’s disgusting to me,” Adam said. “Those people are freaks, and they’re destroying the industry for research chemicals.”

MDPV is not currently listed as an illegal substance in most states because it is considered a designer drug, which has a chemical structure that is similar but not identical to actual illegal drugs.

Carol DesLauriers, operations director at the Illinois Poison Control Center, said part of the reason bath salts are so popular is because people use designer drugs like MDPV to get around the legal implications of getting high on alternatives like cocaine or ecstasy.

“Assuming legislation (to ban the products) will pass, interest in the products will pass,” DesLauriers said. “Once they become illegal, their allure is much decreased. People just go back to the stuff they’re used to because it’s just as illegal.”

DesLauriers also said efforts to market MDPV as bath salts, fertilizer or research chemicals probably are “not terribly legitimate.”

The Drug Enforcement Administration is currently compiling information on what their next course of action will be regarding the legal standing of MDPV on the federal level.

Michael Sanders of the Drug and Chemical Evaluation Section of the DEA said although he doesn’t know if federal control actions will be taken in the near future, the DEA has been conducting investigations of bath salts in recent months.

“It seems like a very dangerous drug out there,” Sanders said.

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