The recent rash of dangerous behavior in the Bangor area by people reportedly under the influence of a new synthetic but legal drug known as “bath salts” or “monkey dust” recalls an era nearly 50 years ago when LSD was legal. State governments responded in 1966 by making LSD illegal. Maine lawmakers were smart to make this latest synthetic drug — and its components — illegal.
The counterarguments are predictable. People should be able to decide what they want to ingest (snort or inject). Media reports exaggerate the worst incidents. If used correctly, this amphetamine can be safe and enjoyable.
But the very public nature of the incidents — one in which a man believed he was being followed by ax-wielding assailants and another where a woman bolted from a cab and thought people were trying to kill her — makes the case for government must stepping in.
And further, the substance clearly is a serious health threat. People using the substance have died and many have been hospitalized because of the physical reactions to the drug. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report 1,400 overdoses so far this year. City councils and state legislatures around the country have been reacting to the introduction of the drug by banning it as fast as possible.
Bath salts are a packaged, granular powder infused with a chemical compound very similar to the illegal drug Ecstasy. It contains methylenedioxyprovalerone, or MDPV. Around the country, the product is often found in head shops, or stores where drug paraphernalia is sold. In Maine, the substance has been sold at convenience stores.
Though they are labeled as being “not for human consumption,” word gets around — often with help from clerks at shops — that if snorted, smoked or inject a “high” will be experienced. But there is nothing harmless about the high. The drug produces rapid heart rates, agitation, paranoia, difficulty breathing, insomnia, nausea, hypertension and hallucinations.
Regardless of whether the Legislature has crafted an effective law banning bath salts before adjourning, there are other ways to inhibit its use. The owners and managers of stores that sell this product cannot continue to stock it on their shelves. Selling this product, legal or not, is unconscionable, given the evidence of its effect.
As with LSD, bath salts has its apologists who insist if used correctly, it is safe. And sadly, as with LSD, the drug may continue to survive in the underground marketplace. But surely we can all agree that there are relatively innocuous substances that alter consciousness and substances with the potential to ruin lives. Bath salts is clearly the latter.