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Bath Salts Emergencies

Updated on June 2, 2012

Brian is pacing back and forth in the Emergency Room. He is agitated and demanding to speak to the Doctor in charge. Two minutes ago he was crying uncontrollably, begging forgiveness for the harm he had done, and saying he didn’t want to live anymore. When they had walked in to the ER he was laughing loudly and for no apparent reason.

Celia, Brian’s wife explains that they are from out of town attending a convention. Brian had begun to act strangely last week after they first arrived. He had admitted to her that he had snorted bath salts with a friend in an attempt to get a cheap cocaine high. Celia had been watching Brian in their hotel room and had been able to manage him. He is not getting better, though. He is getting worse, and she is getting worried. He is talking to people who aren’t there. He complains of chest pain and thinks a cult has been following them. At times he is very short tempered.

Monica, the RN on duty is on the phone with the insurance reviewer and learns that Brian was in the hospital psychiatric unit in his hometown two months ago, also for snorting bath salts. She is making arrangements to transfer Brian to the psychiatric hospital nearby, and hopes it doesn’t take 24 hours to get authorization. She is getting reports from ER staff that Brian is getting increasingly agitated and they are concerned he will harm someone in the waiting room, or wander off and harm someone or himself.

In 2010 there were a total of 303 calls to Poison Control Centers in the US related to exposure to bath salts. On May 12, 2011 there had been 2,237 calls so far in 2011. As of July 31, 2011 there have been 4,137 calls in 2011.

A weekly report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shared findings of an investigation into Emergency Department visits after use of bath salts in the State of Michigan from November 13, 2010 to March 31, 2011. The report explained what bath salts are and then investigated 35 patients who were seen in emergency departments for exposure to bath salts.

Traditional cosmetic bath salts are packaged and sold for the purpose of adding to bath water for soaking and cleaning. The drugs sold as “bath salts” are intended for substance abuse and have no legitimate use for bathing. Bath salts can be purchased at a local store or online for $20 and are labeled, “not for human consumption.” They contain stimulant compounds known as MDPV or mephedrone. These chemicals act on the brain like amphetamines and are highly addictive and have a high risk for overdose. Intense cravings are produced which are similar to methamphetamine cravings. Bath salts can be injected, snorted or ingested.

Mephedrone is easy to buy online and is perfectly legal. It is sold as plant fertilizer and is clearly labeled, “not for human consumption.” Drug laws, therefore, do not apply. The high is very cheap compared to cocaine and there is currently no risk of being arrested as there is for illegal drugs. Some street names are White Rush, Cloud Nine, Ivory Wave, Ocean Snow, Charge Plus, White Lightning, Scarface, Hurricane Charlie, Red Dove, White Dove, and Sextasy.

The symptoms of the 35 patients were similar to stimulant intoxication. The most common symptoms were agitation, tachycardia (rapid heartbeat), and psychosis with delusions and/or hallucinations.

17 of the patients were hospitalized. 15 were treated and released. 2 left against medical advice and 1 was dead on arrival. Of the 17 patients who were admitted, 9 were admitted to ICU (intensive care unit), 5 went to a general floor and 3 went directly to a psychiatric unit. 4 of the patients who went to ICU or a general floor were later transferred to a psychiatric unit. Patients were treated with benzodiazepines in low to moderate doses. Antipsychotics were used if the benzodiazepine treatment was not effective.

The 35 patients studied were between ages 20 and 55. There were 19 men and 16 women. 24 of the patients had a history of substance abuse. 16 of the patients had a history of mental illness. 6 of the patients had suicidal thoughts or suspected suicide attempts that were believed to be related to bath salts abuse.

3 of the 35 patients were seen twice in the emergency room for bath salts abuse. Of these 3, one had rhabdomyolysis, chest pain and dizziness but left the ER against medical advice. This patient was admitted to ICU two months later, then moved to a psychiatric floor for 12 days, and then was transferred to another hospital for liver failure. A second patient who was seen twice, was admitted to the hospital and discharged. This patient was re-admitted on the same day he was discharged, after again using bath salts. The third patient was treated in the ER and released both times, with visits one month apart from each other.

The investigation continues. As of May 16, 2011 there were 75 ER visits by 65 patients who had used bath salts in Michigan since November 13, 2010. In addition to the demands on ER staff and security staff when a patient is violent in the ER, there is an increased demand for foster families and child protective services when a child’s parent is incapacitated.


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    • kimh039 profile image

      Kim Harris 5 years ago

      I know traffic has picked up on this hub and I get a notification when someone comments on yours, VT. I added a link regarding bath salts are suspected in the Miami face chewing incident. This is really a tragic story. Believe it or not, there will be more I'm afraid.

    • Virtual Treasures profile image

      Kacie Turner 5 years ago from Michigan

      Time to move this hub up to your front page while they are rearing their ugly head in the media, kimh! I am amazed at the people (guests) who comment on my Bath Salts hub that don't believe they cause a problem.

    • kimh039 profile image

      Kim Harris 6 years ago

      Thanks docbruin. I saw your hub on synthetic marijuana that parents need to be aware of too! I like how you focus on informing parents in your hubs. It is so difficult for parents who have a child abusing substances. Thanks for reading, rating and posting a commento, docbruin. I appreciate it.

    • docbruin profile image

      docbruin 6 years ago from USA

      Excellent hub kimh039! I am glad to see that more and more info on bath salt abuse is getting out there. Most people have never heard of it and it is a growing problem. It is something that parents need to be especially aware of. Good writing! Voted up and useful.

    • kimh039 profile image

      Kim Harris 6 years ago

      Hi Virtual Treasures. I hadn't heard from you in awhile. I loved your hub, which I linked above, and wasn't going to do another one on bath salts because yours covered it very well. The issue kept coming up for me at work due to all the hospital admissions from bath salts, so I focused on the ER visits and poison control end of it. Thanks for reading and posting a comment... and linking, Virtual Treasures.

    • Virtual Treasures profile image

      Kacie Turner 6 years ago from Michigan

      Excellent hub! I am going to add your hub link to mine. This stuff is soooo scary!

    • kimh039 profile image

      Kim Harris 6 years ago

      Soak safely and securely in your salts Ms Stuart!.... unless you paid $20 at your local convenience store or head shop for them. Lavender is soooo relaxing - my favorite. Thanks for reading and commenting, Mary Stuart!

    • Mary Stuart profile image

      Mary 6 years ago from Washington

      Great HUB. I am not sure I want to soak in my lavender salts now! I had no idea bath salts were used in such a way. Scary!

    • kimh039 profile image

      Kim Harris 6 years ago

      You betcha, GusTheRedneck. It would be better if we didn't need to know, but just in case!

    • GusTheRedneck profile image

      Gustave Kilthau 6 years ago from USA

      Thank you for a very informative article, Kim.


    • kimh039 profile image

      Kim Harris 6 years ago

      That's a good point Sinea Pies. Kids were into things when we were kids too! Maybe since the beginning of time. I did hear about another new one today from a co-worker who attended a conference. They are much more sophisticated than airplane glue. Thanks for reading and commenting, Sinea Pies:)

    • Sinea Pies profile image

      Sinea Pies 6 years ago from Northeastern United States

      Is nothing safe?! I remember as a kid that airplane glue was for kids to make model airplanes. Then it was discovered that glue-sniffing had become the rage. What next!

    • kimh039 profile image

      Kim Harris 6 years ago

      I suspect now that authorities are on to it, something else will come up and bath salts will go away. Until then, may you and your teen(s) stay safe and blessed:) Thanks for reading and commenting Truckstop Sally. I'm kinda glad you now know but wish we didn't need to know about stuff like this.

    • Truckstop Sally profile image

      Truckstop Sally 6 years ago

      Like reader Thelma Albert, I had never heard of this abuse. As a parent of a teenager, one more thing to worry about . . . So tragicc.

    • kimh039 profile image

      Kim Harris 6 years ago

      Hi Thelma. Sadly yes. Thanks for reading and commenting Thelma.

    • Thelma Alberts profile image

      Thelma Alberts 6 years ago from Germany

      Very interesting and informative hub. I did not know that there is such a bath salts addiction. Thanks for sharing.


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