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Abuse of ‘bath salts’ involved in more than 20,000 emergency room visits yearly

Illegal drugs called “bath salts”—which have nothing to do with the products added to bath water—were responsible for nearly 23,000 emergency room visits in 2011, according to a new report issued by the federal government’s Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

“Bath salts” are relatively recent newcomers on the illegal drug scene and contain one or more chemicals related to cathinone, an amphetamine-like stimulant. These highly addictive drugs can be taken by mouth, inhaled or injected, and are associated with dangerous side effects such as heart and blood vessel problems, depression, suicidal thoughts, psychosis, and, in rare cases, death.

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While bath salts make up only a small fraction of the 2.5 million emergency room visits that occur annually for drug abuse, they’ve only recently hit the government’s radar screen. Bath salts are particularly dangerous when mixed with other drugs such as synthetic marijuana or cocaine.

The white or brown powder is sold in packages made to look like they contain common household products, such as plant food or jewelry cleaner. They are usually labeled as a “legal high” or “not for human consumption,” according to the SAMHSA, in an attempt for dealers to skirt prosecution from federal authorities.

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