Ameritox, a provider of laboratory services and practice management tools to help clinicians monitor patient use of pain medications, today announced that it has developed a test to detect “bath salts,” a class of drugs being created in chemistry labs with the purpose of bypassing laws and providing a “legal high.”
Although the Drug Enforcement Administration currently includes three synthetic cathinones – known on the street as “bath salts” or “plant food” – on its list of banned Schedule 1 drugs, Ameritox scientists have formulated tests that screen for five additional chemical compositions.
Structurally and pharmacologically similar to amphetamine, methamphetamine, and MDMA (“Ecstasy”), synthetic cathinones, or bath salts, are laboratory-created versions of controlled substances. These substances, however, have no legitimate bathing use, in contrast to Epsom salts. In what some have called a “chemical cat and mouse game,” new versions of bath salts are continuously produced with a slightly altered molecular structure to avoid being classified as illicit drugs.
“Physicians know the dangers of combining dangerous substances with powerful prescription painkillers,” said Harry Leider, MD, Chief Medical Officer of Ameritox. “Many of these laboratory concoctions are so new they are not yet illegal – but are still extremely dangerous.” Bath salts are said to affect users similarly to methamphetamine, with side effects that can include agitation, combative behavior, hallucinations, paranoia, anxiety, seizures and palpitations.
Bath salts are widely available for $25 to $60 a packet at convenience stores and smoke shops, and the U.S. government has mobilized to combat their rising abuse. In June 2011, the DEA placed three specific synthetic cathinones into its Schedule 1 category of controlled substances, citing the move as “necessary to avoid imminent hazard to the public safety” due to high abuse potential and lack of medical use.
According to DEA, synthetic cathinones are falsely marketed as “research chemicals,” “plant food,” or “bath salts.” Common brand names for these are Purple Rain, Cloud 9, White Rush and Scarface.