How Are Bath Salts an Evolving Threat?

When bath salts emerged at the end of the last decade, they rapidly gained popularity in the United States and Europe as “legal highs.” In October 2011, the Drug Enforcement Administration placed three common synthetic cathinones under emergency ban pending further investigation, and in July 2012, President Obama signed legislation permanently making two of them—mephedrone and MDPV—illegal along with several other synthetic drugs often sold as marijuana substitutes (“Spice”).

Although the new law also prohibits chemically similar “analogues” of the named drugs, manufacturers are expected to respond by creating new drugs different enough from the banned substances to evade legal restriction. After mephedrone was banned in the United Kingdom in 2010, for example, a chemical called naphyrone quickly replaced it, and is now being sold as “jewelry cleaner” under the brand name “Cosmic Blast.”