Designer Drugs: Illegal and Deadly

So-called "Bath Salts"

What they are:

  • A powder that is inhaled, ingested, injected, or smoked for its amphetamine- or cocaine-like effect. Users have referred to these drugs as “fake cocaine.”
  • The drugs are synthetic derivatives of cathinone, a substance that comes from a shrub (“khat”) that grows in Africa. Cathinone is a Schedule I controlled substance under the Federal Controlled Substances Act.
  • The contents of individual packets of so-called “bath salts” drugs vary, but have generally been found to include at least one of six chemicals.

The six chemicals:

  • 3,4 – Methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV)
  • 4 – Methylmethcathinone (Mephedrone, 4-MMC)
  • 3,4 – Methylenedioxymethcathinone (Methylone, MDMC)
  • 4 – Fluoromethcathinone (Flephedrone, 4-FMC)
  • 3 – Fluoromethcathinone (3-FMC)
  • 4 – Methoxymethcathinone (Methedrone, bk-PMMA, PMMC)

Labels / Brand names:

  • Having no known legitimate use, these designer drugs are falsely labeled as “bath salts,” “plant food,” “insect repellant” and other innocuous substances and marked “Not For Human Consumption,” in order to conceal from law enforcement the true purpose of the substances.
  • Brand names include “Energizing Aromatherapy,” “Down2Earth White Horse,” “Kamikaze,” “Ivory Wave,” “Purple Wave,” “Red Dove,” “Blue Silk,” “Vanilla Sky,” and many others.

Where they are sold:

  • Designer drugs labeled as “bath salts,” containing one or more of the six chemicals, have been sold in gas stations and smoke shops in New Jersey.
  • They are also widely available for sale over the Internet.

Reported use has risen dramatically since the beginning of 2011:


  • Nationwide there were 1,782 calls to poison centers about designer drugs labeled as so-called “bath salts” during the first four months of 2011 (as of April 20), compared with just 302 calls during all of 2010, according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers.

New Jersey:

  • So-called “bath salts” designer drug use during the first four months of 2011 (as of April 20). Prior to January, NJPIES received no reports of exposure to so-called “bath salts” drugs.
  • Most of the calls to NJPIES were made by healthcare providers, nurses, and physicians. Approximately 95 percent of the calls reflected cases with symptoms alarming enough to merit emergency treatment in a healthcare facility. More than half were admitted to a hospital.

Extreme, severe physical and psychological symptoms:

  • Use of designer drugs labeled as “bath salts” has been associated with extreme anxiety, extreme paranoia, delusional thinking, and visual and auditory hallucinations, leading to violent outbursts, self-mutilation, and suicidal thoughts; increased blood pressure and heart rate; chest pains so severe the person have feared they were dying; and jerky muscle movements. Some authorities believe the patients they have seen will suffer long-term if not permanent effects due to their use of designer drugs labeled as “bath salts.”

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