DEA bans common chemicals in designer drug bath salts

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has announced that it will move to ban three chemicals that are commonly found in a designer drug sold as bath salts. The ban will be put in place in about a month and will make bath salts products containing MDPV, methylone or mephedrone illegal to make, distribute, sell or possess. Most bath salts products are believed to carry one or more of these substances.

The designer drugs are synthetic equivalents to meth or cocaine. They are readily available in convenience stores or online, and people sometimes use them as legal alternatives to illegal drugs that will not show on drug tests. Thirty states have so far made some chemicals found in the designer drugs illegal and now it will be illegal in Maryland to sell or possess these drugs under federal law.

Health officials and law enforcement officials have expressed concern over increasing reports of people committing suicide or violent crimes while under the influence of synthetic drugs. Rising reports of people becoming violently ill or dying after taking the drugs have also raised concerns. One problem is that the synthetic drugs’ chemical make-up can be highly variable, which could increase the risk of an overdose.

Federal and state authorities have been trying to figure out how to keep up with the manufacture and use of designer drugs in an effort to crack down on the drugs. If the drugs are specifically made and sold for the purposes of human consumption in order to mimic the effects of already illegal drugs and with no other purpose, they are technically also illegal under the Federal Analog Act. There have not been many charges brought under this federal law because it can be difficult to prove a seller’s intent.

Source: Star Tribune, “DEA clamps down on synthetic drugs,” Larry Oakes, Sept. 8, 2011