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Bath salts, now illegal in the U.S., aren’t in the same category as other FDA-approved medications prescribed by psychiatrists, but both groups of drugs share some startling similarities. One might even go as so far as to say they’re cousins under the same family tree.

The street term “bath salts” was given to a body of designer drugs  known under  a variety of names like “Ivory Wave,” “Purple Wave,” “Vanilla Sky,” “Bliss,” “Ocean Burst,” and “Bolivian Bath.”

Bath salts aren’t the crystals people use to soften, perfume and overall enhance their bathing experience.  They resemble the crystalline salts made for baths, but their chemical make-up varies markedly from real bath salts. Like psychiatric drugs, bath salts consist of synthetic chemicals. These chemicals are like amphetamines, which serve to energize and induce excitement.

In July of last year, the Synthetic Drug Abuse Prevention Act made it illegal to have, use and distribute as many as 26 of the synthetic ingredients used in bath salts. But that doesn’t always stop street chemists from working in quasi-labs to make new synthetic derivatives or combinations to get around the law. It’s possible to tamper with and change the chemical formulas to produce similar mind-altering effects.

Which brings me to my next point: psychiatric drugs are also based on chemical formulas and synthetic chemicals with long, often unpronounceable names. These chemicals may not be illegal, but don’t they often serve the same purpose? Psychiatric medications seek to enliven, energize, calm, stabilize or sedate one. And don’t these meds have some of the same side effects as bath salts?

The side effects for bath salts include high blood pressure, heightened pulse, paranoia, hallucinations, irritation and suicidal thoughts/behavior. The latter can last even after the so-called stimulation of bath salts wears off.

“Due to the violent nature of the side effects involved in taking these drugs, the emergency rule will provide law enforcement with the tools necessary to take this dangerous substance off the shelves and protect the abusers from themselves as well as others,” Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi said. “These are dangerous drugs that should not be confused with any type of common bath product.”

Bath salts may be snorted and absorbed intravenously or with drink and food.  For parents and children, it is important to beware of anyone offering drink or food if you do not know the person offering.