"Bath salts" suspected in young woman's death - WMBFNews.com, Myrtle Beach/Florence SC, Weather

"Bath salts" suspected in young woman's death

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) – Monday morning, WECT learned of a young woman who is suspected to have died over the weekend because of an overdose on "bath salts."

The powder compound is the newest "high" on the market linked to several accidents and deaths nationwide.

While easily confused with the scented cosmetic product available in stores, these bath salts are purchased at nearby tobacco shops, gas stations and online for $20 to $50. They are not regulated and not illegal.

Both New Hanover Regional Medical Center and the Wilmington Treatment Center say they've seen an increase in ER visits and addiction cases linked to bath salts.

"It can be a scary experience because you don't know what they are going to do next," said Dr. Ben Gottschalk, the medical director at Wilmington Treatment Center.

The Center regularly admits about two or three people a week suffering from the addiction. Typically they are still high and hallucinating, despite having taken the drug days earlier.

Gottschalk says the problem is largely due to its accessibility, but since it's not regulated, it's "buyer beware."

"We had a case where someone thought they were buying bath salts and they got plant poison," said Gottschalk.

The scientific name for the active compound in bath salts is methylenedioxypyrovalerone, a synthetic derived from a plant called a cathione. Once in the body, it delivers the effects of LSD, ecstasy and cocaine all in one.

"They crave for it and can't get away from it," said Ben. "I've seen people with marks all up their arms because they couldn't stop shooting it."

The salt alters the levels of neurotransmitters, or brain chemicals. Once the chemicals start to surge, users get a feeling of energy and empathy. If used repeatedly, the brain becomes depleted of neurotransmitters and a deep feeling of depression and paranoia sets in.

Bath salts can be injected, swallowed, smoked or snorted.

Cases of suicide have been linked to bath salts, including jumping out into traffic and "cutting."

According to Dr. Gottschalk, these products are made in underground labs and manufacturers are constantly developing new designer drugs to stay ahead of law makers and drug regulators.

To address the prevalence of these drugs in our area, the Wilmington Treatment Center is hosting a designer drug symposium in July. The event is free and open to the public.

For anyone suffering from addiction, they offer a free hotline: 877-762-3750.

Copyright 2011 WECT. All rights reserved.

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