One of the biggest problem these days for drug education, rehabilitation, and law enforcement is the constant research done by antisocial chemists and drug cartels to come up with the latest and greatest new synthetic drugs to present to the world. Methamphetamine and mephedrone (bath salts) are two of these drugs.
Everything Old is New Again
Meth is pretty well known. It was first synthesized in 1893 by a Japanese chemist. It was used during World War II by the German military for its stimulant effects. In the 1950s and 1960s, it was sold as a diet pill, and became quite popular. But then its addictiveness became widely known, and in the 1970s the U.S. Government listed methamphetamine as a schedule II controlled substance under the Controlled Substances Act.
Meth can be made with simple equipment in small batches. Many laboratories now are small-scale operations known as “One Pot” or “Shake and Bake” labs. They can make less than 2 ounces at a time in about 30 minutes by mixing or shaking ingredients in containers like 20 ounce plastic soda bottles.
Mephedrone has been around awhile also. It is a synthetic version of a drug found in the khat plant from Africa. It is chemically different from meth, but has similar stimulant effects. It was first synthesized in the 1920s, but nobody really paid any attention to it. Then it was rediscovered by illegal chemists in the early 2000s. It came to everyone’s attention in 2010 under the name bath salts (the only connection it has with real bath salts is that the crystals look similar), and in the U.S. was sold over the counter at small convenience stores and gas stations.
It was actually packaged in small containers that were labeled “Bath Salts”. In Europe it was sold over the Internet. It was first really noticed by authorities in the U.S. when a large number of calls started being made to poison centers about it. By 2012, the U.S. Government and 41 states had banned mephedrone and similar compounds.
Both Are Highly Addictive
Both methamphetamine and bath salt compounds like mephedrone are stimulants like amphetamines. Recently though, research has discovered that bath salts may be much worse in their addictive power. The Scripps Research Institute did a study comparing the bath salt compound MDPV, and methamphetamine. Rats were used in the study, because they are supposedly as “addictable” as humans.
In the study, the rats worked 10 times harder to get bath salts than they did to get meth. Rats are not humans, but it does indicate that a big problem could be brewing if the bath salt abuse becomes widespread. It is already showing up in poison centers, and will probably begin putting a heavier load on rehab centers and the legal system, as more addicts appear.
Both meth and bath salt have similar effects: headaches, heart palpitations, nausea, cold fingers, hallucinations, paranoia, panic attacks, violent behavior, heart attacks, kidney failure, liver failure, suicide, dehydration, and breakdown of muscle tissue. Overdose symptoms include abnormal heart rhythm, confusion, dilated pupils, involuntary muscle movement, high or low blood pressure, hyperthermia, severe agitation, and tremors.
The Scripps researchers indicated that one of their tasks is to try and stay ahead of the illegal drug labs and chemists, who continuously try to come up with new formulations of their illegal drugs. State and federal authorities must also continuously monitor for the appearance of new designer drugs that are not currently illegal. It is hard for them to stay ahead of the curve, when they do not know where the next threat is going to appear from.