What Are Bath Salts and Why Do They Make People Go Crazy?

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A West Virginia man raped and killed his neighbor’s pygmy goat. A Louisiana man gnawed off a chunk of his neighbor’s face during a fight. A Biloxi burglar stabbed a sleeping man along his neck at 5 am and then begged for permission to stitch up the wound.

The unusual acts had one thing in common: the people who committed them were allegedly under the influence of a cocktail of synthetic amphetamines and hallucinogens, commonly known as “bath salts.”

The designer drug caught national attention after Rudy Eugene mauled a homeless man and ate half his face. Though no police source has confirmed that the man who has become known as the “Miami Zombie” took bath salts, speculation that he did has fueled interest in the drug, catapulting it to the top of web searches for days after the attack.

Jeffrey Scott, a spokesman for the Drug Enforcement Agency, told Fox News Latino that while it had not been confirmed that Eugene used bath salts, his behavior was consistent with cases of violence reported by others who have overdosed on the drug.

There’s absolutely zero idea of what they’re putting in these things. If you’re an user and you’re trying it, you’re playing Russian roulette

— DEA Spokesman Jeffrey Scott

Bath salts, a catch-all name for a group of at least three synthetic drugs, began appearing around 2008—first in Europe and Asia, and then in the United States, Scott said. The chemicals themselves are produced mostly in India and China and then shipped to the United States, where they are mixed, put in bags and distributed at head shops and gas stations or mailed to customers who find the product online.

“They’re literally mixing it in a cement mixer in a garage somewhere,” Scott said. “There’s absolutely zero idea of what they’re putting in these things. If you’re an user and you’re trying it, you’re playing Russian roulette.”

Marketed toward young adults as a legal high, the synthetic drugs aren’t concentrated in any particular area, according to Scott.

“We have seen this flare up everywhere,” said Scott.

Depending on the mix, bath salts can provoke effects that mimic those of both stimulants and hallucinogens, and have the capacity to provoke psychotic episodes.

The federal government banned three of the chemicals used in bath salts-- mephedrone, methylenedioxypyrovalerone and methylon—in October of last year, while regulators assess whether the chemicals have any use more productive than getting violently high.

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