Citing an alarming increase of individuals – often young people – under the influence of a dangerous drug known as “bath salts,” Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin has asked the Rhode Island Department of Health (DOH) to place the main chemicals in the drug on the list of Schedule I drugs, making it illegal to sell, distribute or possess in Rhode Island.
These bath salts, which come in crystal and powder form and are sold in many convenience stores and smoke shops with misleading names such as "Ivory Wave," "Purple Wave," Vanilla Sky," and "Bliss," are used as recreational drugs, being injected, snorted or smoked. Bath salts contain the manufactured chemicals mephedrone, methylone, and methylenedioxypyrovalerone, which cause a cocaine- or methamphetamine-like high.
Medical authorities have stated that psychological side effects include extreme anxiety and paranoia, delusional thinking, and visual and auditory hallucinations. Physical side effects include dramatically increased blood pressure and heart rates, and chest pains so severe some users feared they were dying. Moreover, the drug poses new risks for law enforcement in subduing those under the influence of bath salts.
The American Association of Poison Control Centers reported that in 2010 poison control centers took 303 calls about bath salts. However, in the first seven months of 2011, poison control centers had received more than 4,000 calls related to these products.
“I believe these dangerous drugs pose an imminent and severe hazard to the health, safety and welfare of Rhode Island citizens. One of the most effective means of curtailing abuse of a substance is to designate it as a controlled substance under law and provide penalties for persons who manufacture, distribute, sell or possess the controlled substance,” said Attorney General Kilmartin.
“Department of Health designation of the compounds marketed as bath salts as Schedule I controlled substances will immediately get this dangerous and deadly product off our streets and give our law enforcement personnel the tools they need to effectively go after those who illegally sell and distribute the product.”
Since the drugs made their debut on American soil in January 2011, 29 states have banned the sale of bath salts, either through legislation, emergency orders of designated agencies, or by executive order.
In September, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) invoked its "emergency scheduling authority" to control these synthetic stimulants. The DEA plans to make possessing and selling the chemicals found in bath salts, or products that contain them, illegal in the United States. The emergency action will remain in effect for at least a year, during which time the government is expected to call for permanent control of the drugs.
Under the Rhode Island Uniform Controlled Substances Act, Article 21-28-2.01(2)c, the Director of Health has the authority to control any substance if it is controlled under federal law, which is expected shortly.
“It is vital we all focus on this emerging threat and take immediate steps to curtail its spread any further,” continued Kilmartin. “As such, I encourage the Department of Health to take appropriate and swift action in banning the sale and distribution of bath salts in Rhode Island.”