These Aren't Your Grandma's Bath Salts

Mar 28, 2013, 12:27 ET from American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP)

WASHINGTON, March 28, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- An analysis of poison control data from nine Midwestern states reveals a complex picture of the range of emergency patients poisoned by legal "designer drugs" known as bath salts, with one being just one day old and an unusually high proportion sick enough to be admitted to the intensive care unit of the hospital.  Older users, mostly male, were more likely to inject the drugs and were also more likely to become critically ill, according to a study published online Tuesday in Annals of Emergency Medicine ("A Nine State Analysis of Designer Stimulant, 'Bath Salt,' Hospital Visits Reported to Poison Control Centers")


"The wide availability of these drugs at gas stations and convenience stores may impart a false sense of security, which surely is what led to the death of a 24-year-old woman who took the drugs before a concert," said lead study author Brandon Warrick, M.D., of Children's Hospital of Michigan Regional Poison Center in Detroit, Mich. "More than 16 percent of patients who came to the ER because of these drugs were in critical condition or died. Even though synthetic or 'designer' drugs can lead to significant outcomes, legislation has been difficult. Kentucky was one of the first states to restrict sale of these drugs, but it turns out to have one of the highest rates of use."

Researchers reviewed data from The National Poison Data System, which reported 1,633 patients seeking emergency care in a nine-state region (Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin) in a one-year period (November 1, 2010 through November 30, 2011). Patient ages ranged from 1 day to 61 years and 67.9 percent of users were male. The highest rates of use were reported in Ohio and Kentucky and the lowest rates of use were reported in North Dakota and Wisconsin.

Nearly half (47.9 percent) of all cases were for patients 18 to 29 years old. Older patients were more likely to inject the drugs and attempt suicide. More than one-quarter (26 percent) of patients combined bath salt use with other drugs, such as opioids, marijuana and alcohol. The drugs were sold as insect repellant, natural stain remover, plant food, ladybug attractant and bath salts.

"Legislation will likely only cause a temporary response and result in the emergence of innovative new chemicals of abuse," said Dr. Warrick. "However, this study highlights the value of poison center surveillance and coordination between health departments to detect and control emerging new drugs of abuse."

Annals of Emergency Medicine is the peer-reviewed scientific journal for the American College of Emergency Physicians, the national medical society representing emergency medicine. ACEP is committed to advancing emergency care through continuing education, research, and public education. Headquartered in Dallas, Texas, ACEP has 53 chapters representing each state, as well as Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. A Government Services Chapter represents emergency physicians employed by military branches and other government agencies. For more information, visit

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SOURCE American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP)