Since the advent of LSD in the sixties, new, legal, “designer” drugs have continued to make regular public appearances on the American scene. People assume that they are safe because their use has yet to be restricted by the FDA. The term “designer,” while conjuring glamorous associations with high fashion and exclusivity, actually denotes the fact that the drug has been created in a laboratory and is not a naturally occurring substance.
Methamphetamine was originally discovered by a Japanese scientist in the late 1800’s. It was used by both the Nazis and the Allied armed forces during WWII to keep soldiers functioning and alert for days. Finally it was determined that its long term effects were agitation and impaired judgment rather than good soldiering and its use was discontinued by both sides. It is now quite clear to society at large what a dangerous substance Methamphetamine is but when it was first synthesized and put into use little was known about its long term effect on the central nervous system.
MDMA or “Ecstasy” shared a similar trajectory. Invented in a laboratory it made its way to the nightclubs of the world and for decades was considered harmless and non-addictive. Finally a preponderance of evidence and incidents made clear its capacity for abuse and its dangerous side effects. It was then identified and restricted.
The designer drug making the rounds at the moment carries the intentionally harmless sounding name “Bath Salts”. Obviously no-one would consider consuming actual bath salts recreationally. In this modern usage the drugs are being marketed under this seemingly harmless name and sold as such. The term “Bath Salts” refer to a chemical derivative of the stimulant Mephadrone whose effects simulate Ecstasy, Cocaine and Amphetamine.
Mephadrone was originally synthesized in the 1950’s but forgotten until being rediscovered in 2003. Mephadrone remained legal for sale until 2008 when its use was banned. However, now packaged and sold as Bath Salts it is still available for sale over the internet. Until patients with chest pains, seizures and various other side-effects began showing up in emergency rooms in 2011, after claiming to have taken Bath Salts, the sale of Mephadrone in this form had gone unnoticed.
There are no extreme mood altering substances that are considered safe for recreational use. Just because a substance is technically not illegal at this time doesn’t mean that it is harmless, that it is non-addictive or that it doesn’t possess great potential for harm. The rule of thumb is that, if a substance affects behavior markedly, it is a substance that should be avoided, especially if it is purchased online from sources that are not in any way associated with any professional medical establishment and the claims made about the substance cannot be verified by any accredited body.
As always; knowledge is power and forewarned is forearmed.