On the heels of one of the most disturbing and grisly stories to come about in recent years comes talk of a federal ban on the synthetic drug "bath salts", which would make it illegal to manufacture, distribute, dispense, or possess the stimulant.
Although the Senate was already working on such a bill, they took their sweet time about it until news came of Rudy Eugene's face-chewing attack on Ronald Poppo over Memorial Day weekend. Now, it looks like the case will be passed over to the FDA; Pennsylvania representative Charlie Dent is hopeful that it will be the push needed to get the bill moving. He's been trying to set it in motion for a while now, but with no luck since the Senate declared drug enforcement should be handled by individual states.
“These drugs have odd psychotic effects on people,” Dent said. “Out of this terrible tragedy in Florida, we hope this will bring about greater awareness and accelerate the need to enact meaningful legislation that will protect people from this poison.”
Dubbed "bath salts" because of its appearance, it's not the same thing you buy to scent your bathwater. The drug is reportedly close in chemical makeup to an amphetamine, and officials all over the country are coming forward with stories about the terrifying effects it can have on the user. Not only does it appear to cause almost superhuman strength, they say, it raises internal temperatures, making the user feel as though they are baking from the inside out. Many abusers of the drug apparently strip naked once they're high, a fact that did not escape the attention of Miami police after Rudy Eugene was found nude and eating Ronald Poppo's face on a causeway. He was shot dead after refusing to submit to police orders to leave Poppo alone, and although an autopsy showed nothing out of the ordinary, toxicology reports take much longer to complete. Police are still waiting for confirmation that Eugene was high on the drug, but they feel it is their best explanation as to his erratic and horrifying behavior.
Unfortunately, even if the ban is passed on bath salts, some fear it may not keep avid users from just making it--or a version of it--themselves with household items--something reportedly seen when one chemical is taken off the market and substituted for another--and that could prove dangerous not only for them, but as we've seen, for the general public.
"This is a terrible drug because it takes a combination of methamphetamine, and the paranoia and the aggressiveness, and LSD, the hallucinations, and PCP, the extreme paranoia that you get, combines it into one, and has unpredictable effects on human behavior," Paul Adams, an E.R. doctor in Miami, said.
But while doctors and police say one thing, there are some who say that "bath salts" are nothing like LSD and cause something more akin to a psychosis than "hallucinations". Twitter user @esotericPharma says there's a lot of misinformation being spread about the drug and what it does to the human body, pointing out that there's a big difference between hallucinations and psychosis. While bath salts are a stimulant, LSD is a psychedelic. And because it hasn't been proven that Rudy Eugene was even under the influence when he attacked Poppo, we are left to try and piece together a puzzle with many tiny pieces. One connector seems to be bath salts, so that's what so many news stories are grabbing onto. But that doesn't make it true, according to Time online. Unfortunately, all it takes is one misinformed police officer or doctor to unintentionally start a rumor that spreads like wildfire.
For now, all we can do is wait and see what the toxicology report says regarding Rudy Eugene. And sadly, any answer we find will likely be a scary one.