Note: This blog has been updated with information from the Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center since it was first published.
Most local head shops have stopped selling herbal incense blends known as "spice" since the recent DEA ban, but now they're selling out of a potentially even more dangerous designer drug: a synthetic speed sold as "bath salts," marketed under names like Ivory Coast, Ivory Soft, Cloud 9, and White Lightning.
Spice (a.k.a. synthetic marijuana) was sold strictly as "herbal incense" and labeled "not for human consumption," but people smoked it to get high. These "bath salts" also contain a disclaimer that they're not for consumption and are sold only as a "novelty," but people are reportedly smoking, snorting, and even injecting them for their reputed effects.
And most local head shops are sold out of them.
Aside from Trails, most Valley head shops carry these "bath salts." But employees at several local smoke shops, includingIt's All Goodz
andNana's Smoke Shop
, say they're currently sold out. They say their stock of bath salts flew off shelves after the recent spice ban, and they also report an increase in sales of the legal hallucinogenSalvia
We stopped at six Valley head shops and called four others looking for the bath salts. Only one -- DJ's Smoke Shop in Mesa -- had any left on the shelves. We asked them to hold a bag for us, and when we got there, the clerk told us five minutes after we'd called, a man came in and bought all the rest of the bath salts they had -- seven 250 mg bags, totaling almost $240. The bag we bought cost $29.95. When the clerk handed it to us, she gave us a serious look and said, "Be very careful with this."
The chemicals in bath salts like Ivory Coast and Cloud 9 are called mephedrone and methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV). There has been no formal research into the effects of these synthetic compounds on humans, but it's been suggested they are more potent than cocaine and Ritalin. The high reportedly lasts anywhere from four to five hours, and is allegedly similar to a high from crystal meth or cocaine.
At least 84 people have reportedly been hospitalized in Louisiana after ingesting bath salts. Mark Ryan, head of Louisiana Poison Control Centers, told the Associated Press that poison centers around the country have received 160 calls about mephedrone and MDPV. Poison control centers in Kentucky, Florida, Mississippi, Missouri, Tennessee, Texas, and Utah have all received calls within the past week about the substances, which have reported ill side effects including paranoia, hallucinations, insomnia, vomiting, cold sweats, and cravings for more.
Sounds like a bad trip to us. Alvin C. Bronstein, acting director of toxicosurveillance for the American Association of Poison Control Centers, said in a news release that bath salts containing mephedrone and MDPV are "an emerging health threat that needs to be taken seriously."
The Banner Good Samaritan Poison and Drug Information Center in Phoenix reports receiving two calls related to local cases -- one in September involving bath salts, and a call in December for mephedrone abuse.
Mephedrone is illegal in several locations, including Israel, the U.K., and all of Europe. It is not federally controlled in the United States, but has been banned in North Dakota. MDPV is illegal in the U.K., Finland, Denmark, and Sweden. It is still legal in the United States.
Keep Phoenix New Times Free... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Phoenix with no paywalls.