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Bath Salts Banned, but Many Synthetic Drugs Still Available

After numerous efforts by lawmakers in Texas and other states to curb the production and sale of dangerous synthetic drugs known as "bath salts," President Barack Obama recently signed a bill banning more than two dozen such products. However, doctors and other experts say that legislation has failed to keep pace with the introduction of new substances, which simulate the effects of illicit stimulants like cocaine and methamphetamine, but are made using entirely legal chemicals. About 100 such products, all legal, are estimated to be in circulation.

Individuals accused of possessing or selling such products in Texas may face federal drug charges. U.S. law prohibits the possession of any substance that mimics the effects of illegal drugs, even if the substance itself has not been explicitly banned. The substance in question must be designed for human consumption to be illegal. The parties who sell bath salts and other similar drugs often attempt to circumvent the law by marketing the products as incense, plant food and other similar items. However, the distinction can be unclear, putting those who buy such products at risk for criminal charges in some cases.

The American Association of Poison Control Centers reports that while it received just 304 calls regarding bath salts in 2010, that number increased to more than 6,100 in 2011. Bans on these substances seem to be somewhat affective, but the AAPCC still received more than 1,700 calls about bath salts in the first half of 2012 alone.

Experts say much of the danger inherent in bath salts comes from uncertainty. It is nearly impossible for users to determine exactly what they contain and how long the effects will last. "Cocaine is cocaine and meth is meth. We know what these things do," explained one poison center director, "But with these new drugs, every time the chemist alters the chemical structure, all bets are off."

Source: KXAN.com, "Many drugs remain legal after 'bath salts' ban," Matthew Perrone, July 26, 2012

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