Psychoactive 'bath salts' use among U. S. high school seniors alarmingly high

Alpha-PVP, nicknamed “flakka," is an illegal synthetic drug unlike any drug
law enforcement officers have seen -- users will even trade heroin to get it.

While research has shown that mental illness is not a prime cause of violence, alcohol and drugs are.  A new favorite street drug in the U.S. and the UK is bath salts as found in many homes across the world.  From reading the report, symptoms of bath salts use are similar to the use of stimulants, with many of the same results - aggression and violence included, as well as an inability to follow the instructions of others such as law enforcement. 

For crime writers, bath salts offers another range of causes in murder, in suicide, and in a causes of violence.  Writing about the effects of bath salts is an effective way to get message out to the public through fiction and film.

Here's the story with a link to the original research report and a list of symptoms from a British website.
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Psychoactive 'bath salt' use among
U. S. high school seniors alarmingly high

Recent years have seen an unprecedented growth in number and availability of new synthetic psychoactive drugs in the US and worldwide. In 2014, 101 new psychoactive drugs were identified, worldwide. Such drugs are often sold as "legal" highs or "research chemicals" over the internet or in head shops. Among these new drugs, "bath salts" appear to be one of the more commonly used in the US. "Bath salt" use has been associated with numerous adverse cardiac, psychiatric, neurological, gastrointestinal and pulmonary outcomes.

In 2011, the use of bath salts was responsible for over 20,000 emergency room visits in the US and poisonings and deaths related to use have been occurring at large dance festivals. Increases in bizarre behavior linked to use of the "bath salt" known as Flakka (alpha-PVP) has increasingly been appearing in headlines. "Bath salt" use appears to be prevalent, yet, despite this, little is known about the epidemiology of this drug in the US.

A recent study, published in The American Journal of Addiction by Joseph J. Palamar, PhD, MPH, a CDUHR affiliated researcher and an assistant professor of Population Health at NYU Langone Medical Center (NYULMC), is among the first nationally representative studies in the US to examine self-reported use of bath salts.

The study used data from Monitoring the Future (MTF), a nationwide ongoing annual study of the behaviors, attitudes, and values of American secondary school students. The MTF survey is administered in approximately 130 public and private schools throughout 48 states in the US. Roughly 15,000 high school seniors are assessed annually. Dr. Palamar's study utilized MTF responses from 2012 to 2013, examining data from a total of 8,604 students who reported their sociodemographic data, alcohol and drug use.

Results suggest that
  • 1.1% of high school seniors reported using bath salts in 2012-2013. 
    • A third (33%) of students who used bath salts reported using only once or twice, which suggests experimentation is most common among users; however, frequent use was also common among users with an alarming 
    • 18% of users reporting using 40 or more times in the last year.
The most likely users
Students who resided with fewer than two parents, who earned over $50 per week from sources other than a job, or who go out 4-7 nights per week for fun, were at significantly increased risk for use. Lifetime use of each of the 11 illicit drugs assessed by MTF was a robust risk factor for use. More than 90% of bath salts users reported lifetime use of alcohol or marijuana, and use of powder cocaine, LSD, crack and heroin was at least ten times more prevalent among bath salt users.

Even though use did not significantly change between the two years examined in the study, according to MTF, perceived risk associated with use increased dramatically from 25% in 2012 to 39% in 2013. While rates of use in the US prior to 2012 are unknown, numerous media reports about the dangers associated with use (e.g., prior to 2012) might have served as a deterrent against use. Dr. Palamar also pointed out that "bath salts" can wind up as adulterants in drugs such as ecstasy (MDMA, "Molly") so it is possible that many club and festival attendees who use "Molly" may be unintentionally using these potentially dangerous drugs.

"While these results suggest bath salt use is not particularly prevalent among teens in the US, it is important that we continue to monitor new drugs such as 'bath salts' in order to inform prevention and quickly detect potential drug epidemics," said Dr. Palamar.
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About Bath Salts usage
Bath salts may be ingested, snorted or injected. You may find small foil packages left behind after bath salts consumption. The most serious results come from snorting or injecting. Bath salts act as strong stimulants and may be sought by a person who normally uses cocaine or methamphetamine. They are strongly addictive and trigger intense cravings. Therefore even a person who sees that they are experiencing harm from abuse of these drugs may not be able to stop himself.

Symptoms of Bath Salts Abuse
There have been serious and even fatal results from using bath salts. In some cases, a person has died directly from abuse of the drug and in others, he (or she) died as a result of his actions.

The signs of bath salts use include:
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Chest pains
  • Increased heart rate
  • Agitation
  • Hallucinations
  • Kidney pain
  • Increased body temperature or chills
  • Muscle tension
  • Nausea
  • Confusion
  • Reduced need for food or sleep
  • Paranoia leading to to aggressive attacks on others
  • Suicidal ideas
  • Delusions
  • A person using bath salts may overheat and therefore tear his clothes off. 
  • His paranoia may drive him to aggressive, uncontrolled attacks on others, or self-destruction. 
  • He will probably not respond to any commands to stop his actions, and 
  • pepper spray or tasers may have no effect.

Related stories:
Story Source: Materials provided by New York University.  Joseph J. Palamar. “Bath salt” use among a nationally representative sample of high school seniors in the United States. The American Journal on Addictions, 2015


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