The alarming new drug bath salts is not the same as the bath salts which many people use for softer skin when they bathe. This new substance, which also has other innocuous names such as Monkey Dust, White Ivory or Kryptonite, is a synthetic drug that has seen an increase in use in Bangor and northern Maine since late last year.

There are almost daily reports in the news of someone who has been using bath salts and requires medical and law enforcement intervention.

What is bath salts? The drug is made of either methylenedioxypyrovalerone, more commonly known as MDPV, or mephedrone. They both are derivatives of amphetamines.

While this drug became more visible in the Bangor area late last year, it actually has been around for some time.

It started in Europe in the early 2000s, when it was legal. Because of its addictive quality and its psychiatric and medical complications, it was outlawed in many countries in Europe.

Here in the U.S., it is still legal in some states. It is not classified as a controlled substance yet by the federal Food and Drug Administration.

In Maine, it was only made illegal in July and even now, possession is only a civil offense with some increased penalty for trafficking. Lastly, it is still a fairly cheap drug to buy, compared to cocaine, opiates and other illicit drugs. It can even be purchased online as it is still not regulated in some states.

Bath salts give the user an initial quick high, accompanied by increased energy, alertness and libido. These effects resemble those of the drugs Ecstasy, cocaine, PCP and other stimulants.

However, this high quickly fades, only to be replaced with medical and psychiatric complications.

Bath salts can lead to increased blood pressure and heart rate, neurological problems such as seizures, kidney damage and even death. From a psychiatric standpoint, bath salts can lead to severe psychosis marked by pronounced paranoia and hallucinations. Extreme depression and suicidal thoughts also are common, as are agitation and aggressive behavior.

For those who are curious about this drug or are thinking of using it: Don’t do it! And if you know people who use this drug, persuade them to stop. Bath salts is a very dangerous drug.

We know very little about its long-term effects but we do know that in the short term it causes severe problems. Some bath salts users also have other substance abuse problems or mental health problems. It is extremely important to seek treatment immediately if someone is starting to abuse bath salts.

Bangor-area residents are invited to attend an informational town meeting on the realities of Bangor’s bath salts epidemic. This free public event will take place at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 14, at the Gracie Theatre on the Husson University campus.

The panel of presenters will include Bangor Chief of Police Ron Gastia; Dr. Anthony Ng, medical director of Acadia Hospital’s psychiatric emergency services; and emergency physician Dr. Jonathan Busko of Eastern Maine Medical Center. Officials from Bangor’s Public Health and Wellness Department also will be present.

After the presenters share information, Mike and Mike from Kiss 94.5 FM will moderate a question-and-answer period.

This will be an opportunity to learn the latest information on this extremely dangerous drug which has created a crisis in our area. Everyone is urged to attend.

Help spread the word to as many people as possible. The town meeting on Bangor’s bath salts epidemic has its own Facebook page.

Dr. Ng is the medical director for psychiatric emergency services at The Acadia Hospital in Bangor.