Sunday, February 6, 2011

As It Stands: 'Ivory Wave' hit's America's shores with stealth and speed

By Dave Stancliff/For the Times-Standard

Posted: 02/06/2011 05:34:25 AM PST

Remember the good old days when you used bath salts in your bath to ease those tired muscles? There's a new designer drug now called "bath salts" that's raising concerns around the country. A synthetic amphetamine, these bath salts are a dangerous stimulant that has effects akin to cocaine or meth. At least four deaths have been blamed on the substance as local, state and federal agencies move to ban or control it, according to

The reports began to come in 2010. Little packages labeled bath salts trickled into St. Louis, Missouri, from Great Britain. They contained a new recreational drug that is legal and potentially lethal: "Ivory Wave."

KTVI-FOX2 News reported last October - after months of investigation - that emergency ward doctors were warning the public about a new drug that was poisoning people. "Ivory Wave" turned out to be the forerunner for dozens of brands that have flooded 33 American states. It's currently available at selected head shops and online websites.

 According to the Wall Street Journal (Jan. 22) these bath salts are an emerging menace in the United States." The small packages the bath salts come in are labeled "not for human consumption" - obviously a dodge to get around strict laws governing pharmaceuticals in Britain and America. The true purpose is no secret online. You can find reviews of all kinds of legal highs, including Ivory Wave, on dedicated Internet forums. The toxic stimulants in these so-called bath salts are already known to cause hallucinations, suicidal thoughts, and increased heartbeats. The stimulants are mephedrone and methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV).

The controversial bath salts were outlawed in Louisiana by an emergency order on Jan. 6, after the state's poison center got more than 125 calls in the last three months of 2010 involving exposure to MDPV and mephedrone. Dr. Mark Ryan, director of Louisiana's poison-control center told the Wall Street Journal, "Cathinone, the parent substance of the drugs, comes from a plant grown in East Africa and is regulated." The plant is known as "khat."

Part of the reason why these bath salts have gone under the radar is because they're relatively new. In 2009, there were no reported cases to Poison Control Centers in this country. In 2010, that number jumped to 236. This year alone, we've ready surpassed that with 248 cases. Poison Control Centers in 33 states have reported bath salts poisoning thus far. There have been only a handful of reported cases of bath salt poisoning in California, according to Dr. Rick Gellar, medical director for the California Poison Control System.

Ivory Wave - and it's numerous counterparts - is similar to those designer drugs the DEA temporarily banned for a year last year; K2 and Spice. Designer stimulants are produced in underground laboratories. Other names include, Purple Wave, Vanilla Sky, Snow Leopard, Lunar Wave, Toxic Waste, Ivory Snow, Bliss and Cloud Nine, just to name some of them.

In December 2010, the National Drug Intelligence Center and the American Association of Poison Control centers issued alerts about synthetic stimulants marketed as bath salts. The alert noted how easy it is to get these dangerous designer drugs.

Authorities say their biggest concern is that young people will see designer drugs as safe because so far they aren't illegal. According to a Redwood Toxicology Laboratory report on Jan. 19, " these synthetic stimulants appear to affect users in ways similar to amphetamines and cocaine." The report also note aggression, tachycardia, paranoia and suicide as side effects. It summarizes by stating designer drugs may be acutely toxic.

Synthetic amphetamines are already banned in Europe where 39 deaths have been reportedly related to their usage. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) is currently calling for a federal ban on them. Last month Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi issued an emergency order banning the sale or possession of the controversial bath salts.

Despite these actions, I think banning them is a futile effort. We can't stop people from experimenting with new ways to get high. How many products are we willing to ban every time a new designer drug comes up? Continuing knee-jerk reactions in response to this growing threat to public health won't work. History tells us banning substances doesn't stop their use. Take meth for an example.

As It Stands, the answer lies in educating people, especially our youth, about the terrible risks of taking these dangerous new designer drugs.

Websites carrying this column:

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