09 Aug Bath Salt Addiction in Georgia
The story of America’s drug problem is one that can be traced to before the Civil War, rendering addiction a part of our very history as a country. Today, the tides are evermore perilous, with both illicit and FDA approved substances reaping lives in the thousands. The sad reality is that America’s #1 killer is now overdose.
Yet, some areas are hit worse than most. This becomes more apparent with states that’re close to the Mexican border, states host to big, popular cities, and states which provide expansive highways that make trafficking easy. Georgia falls into this category, as we’ve seen a 1000% rise in overdoses in the last decade alone, teenagers have turned keen to opioids, and an array of scary new Georgia street-drugs seem to use Atlanta as breeding grounds. The demographic of drug users in Georgia are shifting and now the issue has affected every social class.
Outside of the typical drugs we’re used to hearing about—cocaine, opioids, heroin, ecstasy, etc.—these new terrors add an extra layer of evil to Georgia’s drug problem. What we speak on here is substances like Flakka, counterfeit pills, fentanyl (Chinese and American), street-lab spice, and, sadly, the infamous bath salts in Georgia.
You’d think with a drug like bath salts—that its horrible reputation would send even experienced addicts reeling from the prospect of abusing it—but it’s not the case. Bath salts have found their way into Georgia’s borders and made home of it.
Before we delve further into Georgia’s relationship with bath salt addiction, it’s important that we understand the drug in question. It might be that you know the story of the person on bath salts that became a ‘zombie,’ as news outlets wanted an attractive title. Or that the drug causes lesions and can melt skin away. While bath salts don’t turn people into zombies nor do they ‘cause skin to melt,’ the ramifications of using them might evoke the same horror.
What Are Bath Salts?
The proper name for bath salts is synthetic cathinones, which are human-engineered stimulants drawn from the chemical family cathinone, a substance extracted from the khat plan of Eastern Africa and Southern Arabia. There, it is not uncommon for drug users to chew on the plant for euphoria, energy, and focus. Here, on the other hand, our synthetic cathinones are tons more powerful, verging on murderous, with nearly every batch of the drug posing extreme danger.
Typically, bath salts will be in the form of a white or brown powder—sometimes crystalized—that are packaged in foil and plastic. Their typical labeling says ‘not for human consumption,’ ‘cleaner,’ ‘jewelry cleaner,’ ‘bath salts,’ ‘plant food,’ and more. It’s important to note here that synthetic cathinones pay no similarities to the actual salt people use when bathing. These are completely unrelated. There are no FDA approved salts for the bathtub that’re psychoactive. Quite simply, that’s ridiculous.
Furthermore, bath salts are now classified by public health departments as NPS (new psychoactive substances), which is a category that holds an umbrella over all these new illicit street (it’s also appropriate to call them alternative) drugs on the market.
Why Do People Use Bath Salts?
When it comes to the type of drug used, usually the addict has a specific motivation. If they like downers, they do downers. Uppers, they do uppers. The opioid addict flocks to the street in search of heroin because it has molecular similarities to opioids, being that it’s an opiate. The cocaine addict may try meth because it’s an extreme stimulant.
So why do people turn to bath salts? Unfortunately, this lethal substance is considered to be an optimal alternative for methamphetamines, cocaine, and even ecstasy. We’ll break down the way bath salts affect the brain to give you a clearer understanding of why they’re still around. With that being said, the common names for bath salts go as follows:
- White Lightning
- White Thunder
- Vanilla Sky
- Lunar Wave
- Cloud Nine
How Exactly Is It Used?
Bath salts is one of those versatile drugs that can be used via a variety of methods. It is often chopped, cut, and then snorted. Sometimes it’s swallowed, although most don’t recommend this method as it takes longer for the substance to reach the bloodstream. It can be smoked out of foil. And, at its worst, bath salts can be injected intravenously.
Is It Legal?
This header might confuse you—as bath salts are commonly regarded as an illicit substance. A history lesson for you, then. Believe it or not, bath salts were sold legally for a year and a half before the DEA was able to catch wind, mobilize, and ban the substance in its entirety. Once cathinone started swimming in drug syndicates, black market chemists rose to the occasion to see what sort of drugs they could cook up by using the ‘tasty’ new chemical.
Their efforts lead to bath salts becoming a pervasive substance in the darker regions of America’s society, and birthed a new monster as a result; bath salts as we know them today. They discovered a way to make the chemicals in their bath salts bind stronger to the brain’s receptors, taking an already dangerous drug and turning it lethal.
Bath Salts and the Brain
Being that bath salts are a relatively new black-market drug to hit the streets, a lot remains unknown. The further research progresses the more information we’re going to have on how exactly the illicit substance alters brain chemistry. Another facet to this unknown is that the drug hasn’t necessarily been standardized, making its molecular structure specific to the chemist cooking it up in their lab.
What we do know is that bath salts are akin to methamphetamines. They pay their closest similarities to meth in how they influence the brain, and it’s typically users who have abused meth that will turn to bath salts. The jump from cocaine to bath salts is a massive leap comparatively. Thus, when it comes to the basic characteristics of bath salts, we have the below:
- Extreme euphoria
- Increase in energy
- Increase in sex drive
- Full on psychosis
Similar to meth, bath salts stimulate dopamine, the neurotransmitter married to the reward center in the brain. Thus, it induces euphoria, causes waves of elation, brings about hyper-focus and energy, and, if things go awry, renders the brain in a state of emergency. In turn, it also raises blood pressure, heart rate, and can cause shortness of breath. It has all the characteristics of an ‘extreme methamphetamine,’ but creates greater risk for things to go south.
Being that bath salts also release an extreme amount of serotonin, raising the level of the neurotransmitter through the roof, psychosis and hallucinations can quickly accompany the typical high the user is looking to be rewarded with. This is why bath salts has its reputation; it’s a major stimulant and also like an LSD of sorts, which means when people ‘trip out,’ they do so in a violent, energetic, and passionate manner.
Which brings us to our link between bath salts and ‘cannibalism.’ In May, 2012, a man named Rudy Eugene attacked another man while high on bath salts and bit off parts of his face. It was only when police shot and killed Rudy Eugene that the violence stopped. Sadly, Rudy was high on bath salts when he assaulted the bystander.
Which makes bath salts a sort of, LSD PCP mix, where the user is not in control of their actions, and is delusional to the world around them. It is not the usual overdose that’s the problem with this drug, it’s the actions of those who are influenced by it. With that being said, hospitals across the nation are taking in a rising number of patients that experience health complications due to the illicit substance.
Georgia & Bath Salts
In 2011, governor Nathan Deal signed off on a bill that outlawed every form of bath salts. It went on to classify the drug as a Schedule I substance, making the control or sale of the illicit drug a felony by default. This bill was motioned after an onset of bath salt related complications, including violent arrests and overdose.
Sadly, because the drug was legal for a stint, it made its rounds—particularly in Georgia’s teenage population—and proved to stick around after. In an effort to stop the trend from influencing Atlanta, officials began to educate the Georgian public on the issues revolving around bath salts, although they hadn’t seen a massive outpour of the drug.
A year later and a string of outbreaks began to occur, including a situation where Mathew Hammond, a 21-year old, snorted bath salts, ate his own feces, and then proceeded to charge at officers with a knife. This was after he’d already walked around the neighborhood threatening people, and called his mother multiple times on what she described as ‘schizophrenic rants.’ Mathew Hammond had no prior violent history, but was charged with felony obstruction and disorderly conduct.
A few months later, another case arose, where Karl Laventure, not yet 21, stripped nearly nude on a golf course and began running around shouting obscenities at other golfers. He told them that he’d ‘eat them’ if they came too close to him. He referenced God, Tupac, and Biggie a multitude of times before he was tased and subdued by law enforcement.
It was later revealed the Karl had smoked marijuana with a sprinkle of bath salts in it, which then influenced him to act as he did.
Bath Salt Addiction
Any region that experiences these sorts of cases is at once threatened by the influence of bath salts. Being that Georgia is infected with this drug—as with many others—it’s paramount that we continue to educate the public on the dangers of the substance, as just one time using can dramatically alter a person’s life.
At this point in time, bath salt addiction is not as rampant as other drugs. There are a few reasons for this. One, it’s not nearly as available as other illicit substances, and thankfully even veteran drug addicts tend to know better. Two, the ‘high’ produces such extreme reactions from the user that it’s not a viable substance to use regularly.
With that being said, Georgia has witnessed a rise in hospital visits due to bath salts—often mixed with other substances—and this is cause for concern. Addiction to a drug like bath salts, similar to heroin, is a death sentence. Be it an act of extreme violence or something motivated by psychosis, bath salt addiction does not take a user to their end slowly, rather it pushes them with serious momentum.
If you suppose that any of your loved ones or peers are dealing with a bath salt addiction, then the time to act is now. It’s extremely important that we recognize the dangers of this particular substance and the threat it poses to the person abusing it.
What is Georgia’s Response?
It’s no longer in the dark; Georgia is aware they have a drug problem. From multiple grants, federal and state funding, they are now fully mobilized in Georgia’s war against drugs. The money is pouring into addiction-related infrastructure across the state, including rehab facilities, a larger inventory of narcan, programs that mean to educate the youth and public on the issue Georgia currently faces, and resources for addicts.
In certain counties, alternative methods—like offering rehabilitation for drug-related arrests—are being employed. Slowly, the state is beginning to see success. Currently, they’re below the national average for overdose but remain to be one of the top 15 states affected by our drug epidemic.
Lastly, if you landed on this article because you or someone you know is struggling with a bath salt addiction, we cannot urge you more to seek professional help. This is by in large one—if not the—worst addictions to be faced with. The nature of this substance is undeniably deadly. If this is your reality, know you’re not alone, and know that you can make it through this difficult time. It’s simply not the type of addiction you can’t allow someone to ‘figure out on their own,’ or time to take hold of. The time to act is now.