I checked my disguise in the mirror: a ski hat and sunglasses did a good job of concealing my identity, even if I did look absurd. Normally I would have shared a laugh with my staff about this, but what we were doing that day was hardly funny. A few blocks away, at a tobacco shop, I spent $80 to buy several packages of drugs that when snorted have a similar effect as ecstasy but are much more toxic. There was no back-alley drug dealer; there were no lowered voices or code words — just a small-business owner making a sale. I am telling you today, first as a father and then as a doctor, that the ease of that transaction chilled me. Kids everywhere are in danger from this substance, and the threat is legal, cheap and very deadly.
(also nicknamed plant food) is slang for a group of products that contain methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV) or mephedrone — stimulant hallucinogens that prevent the reuptake of norepinephrine, dopamine and serotonin. Keeping your brain drenched in these feel-good chemicals can lead to euphoria — but also to seizures, tachycardia, paranoia, hallucinations, violence and death. A precursor to MDPV was developed in the 1960s as an antifatigue medication, but it was too dangerous for widespread use. That didn't stop the formula from leaking — or kitchen chemists from figuring it out themselves. Today packages are sold under such names as Kush Blitz, Lovey Dovey, White Lightning and Euphoria. They are usually marked with the warning NOT FOR HUMAN CONSUMPTION, a labeling trick that's meant to sidestep government regulation.
In 2010 there were 302 calls to poison-control centers nationwide about bath salts. In just the first three months of 2011, there were 784. There were also roughly 1,500 bath-salt-related visits to emergency rooms in the first quarter of this year. A common cause of death from the drug is suicide; kids who survive often endure long-term psychiatric symptoms.