A new, emerging drug sold in South Carolina could be illegal by the end of the week.
State officials have taken notice of a new synthetic compound known as “bath salts,” which is sold legally across most of the state as an alternative to the “high” of cocaine. However, health officials say it is more dangerous than the organic version.
The Department of Health and Environmental Health board will meet Thursday, when officials plan to add “bath salts” to the list of Schedule 1 drugs, effectively banning it.
Agency spokesman Adam Myrick said DHEC is anticipating an emergency action by the federal Drug Enforcement Agency as soon as Tuesday that could ban the drug nationwide.
However, DEA spokeswoman Barbara Carreno said Tuesday is simply the end of the agency’s 30-day comment period. That just means the DEA now has the authority to issue an emergency ban of the chemicals in bath salts (Mephedrone , methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV) and Methylone), but could still take the action at a later date.
“Bath salts” are just a nickname and are not to be confused by those cosmetic products used in the tub.
Palmetto Poison Center director Jill Michels said they have had 140 cases reported of people using the drug this year, up from 2 last year. “There have been reports in other states of people committing suicide, stabbing themselves, running out in front of cars,” she said, “The behavior is just unpredictable when you’re on this drug.”
Awareness of the previously low-profile drug has skyrocketed as various local governments have banned stores from selling it. Rock Hill, Florence, Georgetown, and Columbia are just a few of the cities where sales of bath salts were criminalized this year.
In an unusual twist, Michels said many of the Poison Center’s calls are from people who were not sick. “They are concerned about its availability out on the market and so they’re actually calling the Poison Center just to make a record,” she said, “I’ve been doing this for maybe 15 years or so and that’s the first time I’ve ever had someone call just to report so they’d have (the information) somewhere.”
The state legislature tried to ban the drug earlier this year. A bill that would have outlawed the sale and possession of “bath salts” did not go far in the House, as the Judiciary committee where it was assigned was already focused on the issue of redistricting.