Now that Pennsylvania has banned synthetic drugs—including bath salts—owners of drug stores and head shops have two months to take the amphetamine-like substance off their shelves. And doctors hope the new law will reduce cases of bizarre and violent behavior.
Dr. Michael Frost, an addiction specialist at a psychiatric facility in Ambler, said he has treated a handful of patients a week who have bad experiences after taking the drug, which can cause hallucinations. He recalls a patient in her 30s who took bath salts just once before spiraling into psychosis.
“She actually bit her own hand so badly she broke off her front tooth in her own hand, but had no recollection of doing that,” Frost said.
Frost said new drugs pop up quickly when old ones are banned as people rush to find the next legal high. In his experience, though, making a new designer drug illegal does cut down on visits to his office associated with it.
“It’s not going to stop people from using them, but at least it will stop those casual users from getting hold of them,” Frost said.
Barbara Carreno, of the federal Drug Enforcement Agency, said making new classes of designer drugs illegal discourages those looking for a low-risk, legal high.
“It’s the law that has made these popular,” Carreno said. “So it’s the law that will help to protect society as well, working in conjunction with prevention and treatment.”
Carreno said producers of the drug started marketing it in the U.S. after laws banning the substance in Europe decreased demand there.
The murder of a Rutgers University student this spring has been linked to the drug.
The new law also bans salvia, a plant-derived hallucinogen, and synthetic marijuana.
The law will take effect in 60 days, though Gov. Tom Corbett is asking stores to pull the drugs off their shelves now. A similar law in New Jersey is expected to reach Gov. Chris Christie’s desk before the Legislature breaks for the summer.