Photo: Flickr / rodolpho.reis
The use of a hallucinogen tied to a recent cannibal attack has skyrocketed in recent years.That drug, known as bath salts, has reportedly been linked to some pretty crazy behaviour – including the face-eating attack in Miami.
But how did this drug get so popular?
Is it even on the DEA’s radar, and who takes it?
We have the low-down on the apparently crazy-making drug.
The main ingredient in the designer drug marketed as bath salts -- methylenedioxypyrovalerone -- was first synthesized in 1969 and was totally legal in most states until recently.
That drug, known as MDVP, has been used as an appetite suppressant and to treat chronic fatigue syndrome, according to a March 2010 background paper prepared by officials at the Drug Enforcement Administration.
MDVP can boost users' sex drives but can also make them anxious, the DEA said. A white or tan powder, the substance begins to stink if it's left in open air.
In 2009, MDVP began showing up in the U.S. by way of China and India as part of a designer party drug called 'bath salts,' according to the DEA.
While users typically snort it or take it in pill form, bath salts can be smoked or injected. The drug, which the DEA likened to LSD, can also cause chest pains, nose bleeds, sweating, and nausea.
The DEA had also linked the drug to suicide, homicide and self-inflicted wounds.
In February 2011, the DEA's New York division launched a special task force to crack down on on the drug.
The task force eventually arrested 10 people who allegedly sold the bath salts at retailers in Manhattan and Brooklyn, one of which was apparently a tattoo parlor.
'Let this be a message to not only those who sell this poison but to those who abuse 'bath salts' that this road leads to a dead end,' DEA agent John Gilbride said after the arrests.
New Jersey introduced a bill to ban the sale of the MVDP in March 2011 after Rutgers University student Pamela Schmidt was allegedly beaten and killed by a boyfriend high on 'bath salts.'
The now-controversial drug had previously been freely available in convenience stores, the Star-Ledger reported after the bill was introduced.
'Bath salts' were linked to self-mutilation, violence, hallucinations and extreme paranoia back in March 2011, the Star-Ledger reported.
Pamela Schmidt's long-time boyfriend, William Parisio, had been high on bath salts and 'paranoid like you wouldn't believe' before her death, his mother told 1010 WINS back in March 2011.
By September 2011, at least 32 other states had taken steps to ban or control the substance, according to the DEA.
In July 2011, The New York Times reported that hospitals had noticed an alarming number of patients high on bath salts, which was legal in many states at the time.
The most disturbing incidents included a man who broke into a Pennsylvania monastery and stabbed a priest and a West Virginia woman who tore off her own skin, the Times reported.
'She looked like she had been dragged through a briar bush for several miles,' one doctor told the paper.
Yet another doctor said some people who did bath salts 'aren't right for a long time.'
The DEA said in September 2011 that it was using its authority to temporarily control MDVP and related stimulants amid increasing fears over the dangers of bath salts.
That action made it illegal for one year to possess MDVP while the agency decided whether it should be permanently controlled.
MDVP-containing drugs, sold as 'plant food' or 'bath salts,' could cause violent episodes, the DEA said.
In May 2011, a West Virginia man claiming to be high on bath salts reportedly stabbed a neighbour's goat to death while wearing women's underwear.
A pornographic magazine was lying near the pygmy goat, which belonged to a 4-year-old child, The Daily News reported at the time.
In late May 2012, Rudy Eugene, 31, was reportedly high on bath salts when he chewed off the face of a 65-year-old homeless man.
The homeless man, Ronald Poppo, survived the attack on a Miami highway even though police said Eugene gnawed his face off down to his goatee.
Needless to say, the so-called 'Miami Cannibal' drew more attention to the drug, and the apparently bizarre behaviour it causes.
Later in May 2012, the U.S. Senate voted to officially ban bath salts along with synthetic marijuana, sending the measure to the U.S. House of Representatives.
The legislation would ban MDVP, sold under the street names Tranquility, Zoom, Ivory Wave, Red Dove and Vanilla Sky, the Associated Press reported on May 31.
'Let this be a warning to those who make a profit manufacturing and selling killer chemical components to our teens and children: the jig is up,' Sen. Chuck Schumer said at the time.
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