What you need to know about 'bath salts'

While the name implies a harmless little luxury, bath salts are being used for something completely different than soaking a bath.

“Bath salts” have become the latest illegal drug to capture the nation’s attention after a chilling episode in Miami, in which the drug was rumored to have caused 31-year-old Rudy Eugene to eat the face of Ronald Poppo, 65.

A medical examiner ruled Wednesday that Eugene, who died in the incident, was only high on marijuana -- not bath salts -- but there there have been numerous accounts of other people fatally overdosing on bath salts. The Drug Enforcement Agency has taken action to ban the drug as well as the sale of chemicals used to make it.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), bath salts typically contain amphetamine-like chemicals, such as methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MPDV), mephedrone and pyrovalerone.  The drug is typically taken orally, through inhalation or by injection, the last two frequently pertaining to the worst outcomes for users.

Often touted as a cocaine substitute, the NIDA said bath salts act as a brain-stimulating drug.  Similar to drugs of this nature, using bath salts reportedly triggers side effects like those experienced by methamphetamine users – most notably, intense cravings.  Other adverse effects can include intense paranoia, extremely high temperatures and hallucinations.

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Due to its chemical composition, bath salts have the ability to put people at high risk of abuse and addiction.  However, because the drug is brewed illegally on the “streets,” the full extent of its composition is unknown, making addiction to bath salts even more dangerous.

To add to the growing concern is the growing popularity of the drug – leading to more and more ER visits from drug users.  Over 6,100 emergencies involving bath salts were reported by poison-control centers in 2011, up from 303 cases in 2010, the Daily Beast reported.

To fight this staggering trend, at least 38 states have put bans on bath salts into place, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Reuters contributed to this article.

Click for more from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.