TAMPA - For months, a 20-year-old who asked not to be identified said it was easy to hide her new found drug from her parents thanks to its seemingly innocuous label "bath salts."
It wasn't so easy to hide what it did to her.
"I lost a lot of weight, very skinny, and started losing hair, started looking like I was sick," she said.
Using once a week turned to once a day.
"Basically I was killing myself with this stuff," she said. "You'll see birds or dogs dancing or something weird like that. It's weird but it's scary."
According to the Florida Poison Information Center, such bath salt-induced hallucinations can last for days. Seizures and skyrocketing blood pressure have also been reported.
The white powder, typically sold in smoke shops, is often labeled "not for human consumption", but experts say that's exactly how they're being used.
Until a recent ban on the substance, cases requiring medical attention due to the drug doubled in the month of January, from 21 cases in four months last year, to 46 in just 4 weeks.
"It's clearly not what it's designed for. It's clearly not really for taking a bath. We know that," said Florida Poison Information Center Medical Director Dr. Cynthia Lewis-Younger.
The substance comes in a tiny container, typically priced between $20 and $40.
Before last week's ban, our ABC affiliate in Tampa purchased the product, then partnered with the ABC station in Orlando and sent several samples out for testing. All came back positive for either mephedrone or MDVP, which experts say is similar to the synthetic chemicals in the drug ecstasy, and responsible for the most dangerous reactions.
"Agitation, hallucinations, potential for seizures," Dr. Lewis-Younger said.
The lab also revealed additives like hallucinogens, muscle relaxants, anticonvulsants, antidepressants, even antiparkinsonians.
"They're not pure and they contain a lot of contaminents," Dr. Lewis-Younger said. "There would be no reason to use this in a bath."
The ban on bath salts seems to be working.
"The numbers of exposures drastically decreased right after the ban," Dr. Lewis-Younger said.
The ban will continue for 90 days. At this point, there is no proposed legislation to make bath salts permanently illegal.
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