For a while now, the news has carried stories about the use of synthetic bath salts. No doubt, many Floridians first heard the phrase and wondered how a relaxing soak in the tub had any tie to recreational drug use. As many now know, the substance behind the headlines is completely different from anything used to scent your bathwater. Our Panama City law firm understands that the drug has left behind many victims, both in our own region and across the nation.
A troubling case out of central Pennsylvania caught nationwide attention last month. An Associated Press article, carried by several outlets including The Altoona Mirror, reported that 31-year-old Carla Murphy of Altoona, PA has been charged with smoking bath salts just two days after giving birth. Murphy was still in the maternity ward at Altoona Regional Hospital on June 17 when she allegedly used the substance, stripped naked, and fought with hospital staff. The report also indicates Murphy rolled around on a shower room floor and was unable to respond to questions from staff members at the hospital. A police search found drugs in Murphy's home and among the personal effects she had with her when she gave birth. Other news outlets indicate Murphy assaulted both a nurse and one of the responding officers.
Sadly, this is not even the most upsetting incidence of bath salt use in recent months. Bath salts are also believed to have been involved when a Miami man, reportedly high on the drug, was found cannibalistically eating the face of a homeless man. Amazingly, the victim survived the May attack but he has been left severely disfigured.
WebMD notes that bath salts often contain a chemical substance abbreviated MDPV, but the exact contents of the product vary. Marketing the substance under the bath salts label and marking them "not for human consumption" helped drug makers sell the substances legally for some time. Before recent legislative efforts, the drugs could be found openly on sale in mini-marts and smoke shops. Users consume the product in different ways including snorting, shooting, and mixing the drug with food or drinks. In all of 2010, there were only 236 calls to U.S. poison centers relating to bath salts. In just the first two months of 2011, more than 250 calls were placed about the drug.
Bath salts have a stimulant effect on users that can lead to agitation, increased heart rate, hallucinations, paranoia, chest pains, and suicidal acts. Users often experience an increase in body temperature, leading a user to feel as if they are burning up from the inside. Other users have reported feeling invincible, like they have superhuman strength. The Internet is filled with video clips showing the scary effects the drug can have. No test is currently available so both treating physicians and law enforcement personnel need to rely on a user self-reporting ingestion. Long term studies are limited and it is not clear if the substances are addictive and if there are long term effects. Concern has focused thus far on the short term impact, especially cases of acute toxicity.
Florida, like many other states, has made the chemicals in most bath salt formulas illegal. Bath salt laws vary from state-to-state and among different formulations. Federal laws have targeted some chemicals used in bath salts, but many suggest additional measures are needed and would better equip law enforcement officers seeking to target users, sellers, and manufacturers.
If you have been the victim of a Panama City accident involving bath salts, please contact our legal team. We are prepared to help you obtain all the monetary compensation allowed by Florida law.
Additional information on bath salts can be found on WebMD and DrugFree.org.