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Epidemic reveals need to outlaw dangerous bath salts

Those on the frontlines know them as one of the most dangerous drugs, and one of the most misleading terms. Bath salts: they are no day at the spa. They are a new synthetic drug, destroying lives and ripping apart families across the country. Law enforcement and emergency room physicians see the effects of this drug every day. And the crisis is escalating quickly. The American Association of Poison Control Centers says it got a few hundred calls on bath salts last year. It may get 20 times that this year.

These bath salts have nothing to do with a bathtub. It’s just a cruel marketing term for a scary drug. They’re sold at your neighborhood convenience store, in cute packages with benign names. To skirt the law, their labels say “not for human consumption.” There is no legitimate purpose for these substances, and people are consuming them. When ingested, they mimic the effects of some of the most dangerous illegal drugs. Users may experience hallucinations, paranoia, extreme agitation and become violent. Long-term effects are unknown, but there are reports from across the country of serious long-term impairment and even death.

We convened a meeting of law enforcement professionals in Flagstaff this July to address the bath salt epidemic in Arizona. It became clear to all of us how devastating the effects of these synthetic drugs can be. Reports are flooding in from hospitals across Arizona, that the use of “bath salts” is on the rise and the consequences are tragic.

The federal government is starting to reach a similar conclusion. Just this week, the Drug Enforcement Agency enacted a temporary ban on the manufacture, sale and possession of these synthetic drugs. While the DEA’s temporary ban is a good start, it isn’t enough.  We need to make sure our local law enforcement professionals have the power to stop the spread of these dangerous, devastating drugs in our communities. It makes sense to outlaw substances that mirror some of the most insidious drugs, with side effects so closely related to those of ecstasy and meth.

With incidents on the rise in Arizona, we must act quickly. When the Legislature reconvenes in January, we need to join the

33 states that have already made these synthetic drugs illegal. Law enforcement and the medical community see this crisis firsthand, and they are letting us know something must be done. We will not rest until we have banned these dangerous drugs in our great state.

— Senate President Russell Pearce is a Mesa Republican.

— Glendale Republican Sen. Linda Gray is chair of the Senate Public Safety & Human Services Committee.

One comment

  1. Au contraire, Russell: what this epidemic reveals most clearly is the overall bankruptcy of drug prohibition. Prohibition creates the environmental niche in which these new designer drugs flourish. Had there been no prohibition, there would be many less of these chemicals marketed, because they are poor substitutes for the parent chemicals whose place they occupy in the market.

    Don’t expect the government to be forthright about any of this. They have too much invested in the machinery of Prohibition to consider another strategy now.

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