Bath Salts: Deep in the Heart of America's New Drug Nightmare | SPIN
As small knots of sweaty tweakers gape from across the street, visibly frustrated that one of their favorite haunts is being hit, the law-enforcement troops inside the Joint hit pay dirt. After a meticulous, two-and-a-half-hour ceiling-to-floor toss, the cops emerge with a bulging Hefty bag and cardboard cartons brimming with $70,000 worth of synthetic marijuana known as Spice and what they assume to be bath salts, the latter being sold in little foil packets. By the time night falls, the task force teams seize $250,000 in illegal synthetic drugs in the greater Columbus area. Selling and possessing bath salts in Ohio is a felony, yet due to loopholes in state and federal laws, the anonymity of the Internet, and the pace at which the chemicals can be altered, prosecuting anyone above a street-level seller and buyer currently poses a stiff challenge.
About two years ago, bath salts — a lab-brewed drug that unpredictably mimics a freakish combination of coke, meth, and Ecstasy — suddenly popped into public consciousness with a rat-tat-tat of reports from emergency rooms and law-enforcement officials that sounded like the stuff of a D.A.R.E. officer's most florid nightmare. By most accounts, the drug — then legal — first surfaced in Louisiana in mid-2010, quickly moved through the South, and then spread out in all directions. It was, in fact, in Louisiana where one of the first Code Red warnings about bath salts emerged, when a user lost her arm and part of her shoulder after she shot herself up and sparked a flesh-eating bacteria.