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Information about Bath Salts for School Personnel

Bath salts, though illegal in Maine, are becoming increasingly available in our towns and cities. They present a high risk of harm to anyone using this synthetic substitute for cocaine and methamphetamines.  Use by youth is on the rise in the United States. Some individuals have been seen exhibiting bizarre and potentially dangerous behavior.

The Department, in conjunction with the Maine Department of Public Safety, and the Maine Department of Health and Human Services are asking school administrators, nurses, teachers, and others to become aware of the dangers and symptoms of bath salts in order to protect the safety and well-being of students who may be under their influence, as well as the safety of other students and adults in the school setting.

HEALTH ALERT: Educators asked to learn about bath salts

What  are bath salts?

Bath salts are central nervous system stimulants that belong to a group of drugs called synthetic cathinones.  Within this category are the drugs MDPV (3,4-methylenedioxypyrovalerone) and mephedrone which have been identified in illicit bath salt products. Suspected of being produced as legal substitutes for ecstasy, cocaine, and amphetamines, bath salts are often labeled as “not fit for human consumption” as a way to avoid legal prosecution.  

Common street names are: Ivory Wave, Vanilla Sky, White Rush, “plant fertilizer,” and “plant food.

What do they look like?

Bath salts appear as pure white to light brown substances and are made up of a water-soluble, crumbly powder with a slight odor.
View pictures of bath salts:

Are bath salts legal in Maine? 

No. The 125th legislature passed LD 1562 in 2011 making bath salts illegal in Maine. 

Read the law.

NOTE: Federal legislation has been introduced to ban at least two of the bath salts chemicals.

How are they used?

Although bath salt products contain no specific directions for illegal use, they are usually snorted, but can also be smoked, injected or swallowed.

Who is using bath salts?  

There is limited information about this. Below is information from the Northern New England Poison Center showing use in Maine, which indicates a high percentage of use by people under age 30.

Northern New England Poison Center
Maine Bath Salts Exposures
by
Age/Gender
January 1 to August 6, 2011

Age

Male

Female

Total

13-19

3

2

5

20-29

38

13

51

30-39

16

8

24

40-49

5

6

11

50-59

3

0

3

Total

65

29

94

How long has it been on the market? 

MDPV was first seized in Germany in 2007. Since then, increased use has been noted in the United Kingdom, Australia and now in the United States. The data below show a rapid increase in use in the United States from 2010 through the first seven months of 2011.

American Association of Poison Control Center national data:

Calls to poison centers about exposures to bath salts as of July 31st, 2011:

Year

# of Calls

2010

303

As of July 31, 2011

4,137

 

What are the risks of using bath salts?

Side effects can include:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Agitation
  • Diminished requirement for sleep
  • Lack of appetite
  • Increased alertness and awareness
  • Anxiety
  • Fits and delusions
  • Nosebleeds

More serious side effects from higher doses or more frequent use include:

  • Increased blood pressure
  • Seizures
  • Loss of  bowel control
  • Muscle spasms
  • Muscle damage
  • Hallucinations
  • Aggression
  • Severe paranoia
  • Panic attacks
  • Sharp increase in body temperature
  • Risk of renal (kidney) failure

How should school nurses respond to suspected use?

If bath salts use is suspected and vital signs warrant, call 911 for transport to a local emergency department. No school employee should be left alone with a person suspected of being under the influence of bath salts.

Are bath salts addictive? 

Because these products are relatively new, knowledge about short- and long-term effects is limited.  Anecdotally, higher doses and frequency of use is reported to become addictive. These chemicals act in the brain like stimulant drugs and thus present a high abuse and addiction liability. 

What can educators do to help?

Students under the influence of bath salts may exhibit bizarre behaviors uncharacteristic of their personality. If you notice a student with any of the above symptoms indicative of use of bath salts, please have that student escorted to the nurse’s clinic immediately and transported to the local emergency department. Notify administration and School Resource Officer of what you observed.  It is not advised to confront someone on bath salts because of acute agitation and potential for aggression. No school employee should be left alone with someone suspected of being under the influence of bath salts.

Resources for accurate information:

Maine Office of Substance Abuse – 1-800-499-0027 or 207-287-8900

National Institute on Drug Abuse: Message from the Director on bath salts – "Emerging and Dangerous Products"

Northern New England Poison Control Center – 1-800-222-1222

Nancy Dube, School Nurse Consultant, 207-624-6688

Updated 11/30/2011