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Alabama Bans 'Cocaine-Like' Bath Salts

Alabama authorities have banned certain stimulant-containing bath salts after reports that consumers are ingesting and injecting the products to get a cocaine-like high.

The stimulants in the salts, mephedrone and methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV) are synthetic drugs that mimic the effects of cocaine or methamphetamine, also known as meth. As with any drug, things don't always go well: Users of the bath salt drugs can suffer from extreme paranoia, hallucinations , psychosis, agitation, hypertension, headache, chest pain and uncomfortable changes in body temperature and heart rate, according to the National Institutes of Health.

"These two chemicals are deadly and cause tremendous health issues," Deborah Soule, executive director of Alabama's Partnership for a Drug-Free Community, told "They pose a threat to the well-being of young people and anyone who uses them."

Sold under seemingly innocent aliases like Aura, Vanilla Sky, Ivory Wave, Ocean Burst, White Rush, Pure Ivory, Cloud Nine and Bolivian Bath, the "salts" sound like the names of actual bath products you'd find at a spa, but the people who shell out about $40 for a 2-gram package of the bath salts don't use them to take a relaxing soak in the tub.

Taking an actual bath with the mephedrone and MDPV-laced bath salts results in only minor exposure to the chemicals nothing that will cause any harm. To suffer a severely negative reaction, such as cardiac arrest or overdosing, one would have to purposely misuse the bath salts by injecting, snorting, eating or smoking them in an effort to get high. Nationally, the bath salts have been blamed for at least four deaths, with 248 reported cases of its misuse, according to poison control officials.

Unlike traditional bath salts that look like small, opaque rocks, the illegal bath salts are usually sold in powder form, making misuse of the "bath salts" more convenient. Additionally, because the banned bath salts' labels say "not for human consumption," they are not regulated like food or legal pharmaceutical drugs . Manufacturers can slap on the label and add dangerous chemicals like mephedrone and MDPV, knowing full well that their products will be ingested.

Across the country, the "bath salts" have been widely sold at truck stops, smoke shops and convenience stores, as well as online. But as of Feb. 23, the manufacture, distribution and possession of the synthetic substances was declared illegal in Alabama after mephedrone and MDPV were added to the Alabama Controlled Substances List by emergency rule.

Several other states, including Florida, Louisiana and North Dakota, have already banned the drug-tainted bath salts, and New York Sen. Charles Schumer has proposed a bill that will add the rogue bath salts to a list of federally controlled substances. How Do Hallucinogens Work?

Got a question? Send us an email and we'll crack it. Follow Remy Melina on Twitter @RemyMelina

Remy Melina was a staff writer for Live Science from 2010 to 2012. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Communication from Hofstra University where she graduated with honors.