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A new synthetic drug, marketed as "bath salts," is raising concern across the country. These unregulated psychoactive substances which can cause kidney failure, seizures and even death are among the latest legal synthetic drugs used as alternatives to illegal drugs.

Though commonly referred to as "bath salts," this is not the same product as your typical bath salts used for soaking in the tub - that type of salt is presently not of concern. These powerful stimulant drugs, however, are produced as a legal substitute for ecstasy, cocaine and amphetamines, and are designed to avoid legal prosecution. Though popular amongst ages 14 to 25, users of all ages have been reported. Those who have used the product have described the initial effects diminish quickly, compelling them to immediately use the drug again.

A number of sources indicate this synthetic drug usually snorted, smoked or swallowed is becoming increasingly popular because of the misperception that they are a safer alternative to illegal methods of getting "high," and because they can be easily obtained on the internet and in specialty shops.

Packaged as "soothing bath salts," or "concentrated bath salts," these products often include a label stating that they are not for human consumption, but are otherwise sold with no specific directions for use.

Often, the list of ingredients on these products gives no indication of the presence of psychoactive substances. Made up of a significantly hydrophilic and crumbly powder, "bath salts" have a slight odor and appear as a pure white to light brown substance and will darken slightly if exposed to air for a long period of time. Additionally, they are made up of unregulated chemical substances and are being sold in 200 mg or 500 mg packets under a variety of brands or names, such as Pure Ivory, Vanilla Sky, Hurricane Charlie, Purple Rain, Ivory Wave, Whack, Crush or Bolivian Bath. Though not all brands have been tested, including Ivory Wave, Vanilla Sky and Whack, the principal active ingredient in bath salts is believed to be MDPV (methylenedioxypryrovalerone), a highly potent synthetic cathinone derivative.

Last year, a number of European governments banned MDPV, declaring it a controlled substance. In February, Virginia banned "bath salts," and Maryland's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH) announced June 10 its investigation of MDPV and mephadrone (4-methylmethcathinone). Based on this review, the Health Secretary may seek to effectively ban sale of these products in Maryland.

In addition, the Navy takes a zero tolerance stance when it comes to the use of synthetic drugs. According to SECNAV Instruction 5300.28D, the use of any controlled substances and designer drugs such as "bath salts" is prohibited and could result in discharge from the Navy.

Considering these "bath salt" products have not been fully researched, information about their effects and symptoms is still limited; however, it is known that these products can produce severe side effects, such as increased heart rate, agitation, lack of appetite, increased alertness/awareness, anxiety, fits and delusions, and nosebleeds. Other more serious effects include muscle spasms, blood circulation problems, muscle damage, loss of bowel control, hallucinations, aggression, severe paranoia, sharp increase in body temperature and the risk of renal failure.

In extreme cases, powdered "bath salt" products have been linked to drug induced deaths. For example, some open sources claim they may have played a role in the August 2010 death of a 35-year-old woman in the UK, who reportedly died from the effects caused by long-term use. These products have also been linked to the death of a 24-year-old man in the UK, also in August 2010, who reportedly jumped from a cliff top after he experienced the severe hallucinations associated with "Ivory Wave." Overall, the long term effects largely remain unknown.

For more information, please contact your local NCIS/CID office at 301-295-0570, or e-mail ncistiplinencis.navy.mil.