Louisville, Ky. – This year, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers working express consignment operations at the UPS hub in Louisville, Ky. continue to intercept an increasing number of dangerous imported “bath salts” designer drugs pouring into the U.S. Chicago CBP Laboratories and Scientific Services chemists have been working with CBP officers to test samples and uncover emerging trends relating to these harmful and unpredictable synthetic substances.
“Bath salts” can contain the Schedule I controlled substances Methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV), Mephedrone, and Methylone; or they may contain one of the many synthetic cathinone derivatives related to the parent compound cathinone, a naturally occurring psychoactive drug found in khat.
Every week, our CBP chemists analyze the contents of these incoming packets. “Bath salts” are very diverse and take many forms. By adding different atoms or functional groups to the structure, results in the way the human body responds could range from weird to dangerous.
These drugs are ordered through the Internet and typically arrive from China manifested as “bath salts” or “plant food,” because they look like Epsom salts or the white powdery plant food that help make cut flowers last longer. Street names for “bath salts” are Plant Food, Ivory Wave, Purple Wave, Vanilla Sky, Zoom, and White Dove. They are sold clandestinely under the counter at gas stations, convenience stores and head shops in small foil packets or plastic baggies for $10-$75 per 50-milligram packet.
“Bath salts” users experience a high similar to cocaine, methamphetamines or LSD. Symptoms also include hallucinations, extreme paranoia, psychosis, tremors, seizures, high blood pressure, chest pains, bowel control loss, kidney failure, and extremely violent behavior.
“The chemical structures of these substances keep changing which is why they are called “designer drugs,” said Neele Shepard, Chicago CBP Lead LSS Chemist. “Every week, our CBP chemists analyze the contents of these incoming packets which change in an effort to try and circumvent the law. The substances are continually evolving so there is no medical research showing what the effects are. What we have seen is that “bath salts” are very diverse and take many forms. By adding different atoms or functional groups to the structure, results in the way the human body responds could range from weird to dangerous.”
In the first eight months of fiscal year 2012, from October 2011 to May 2012, CBP officers at the UPS express consignment facility in Louisville intercepted 32 shipments of synthetic powders and tablets weighing approximately 70 pounds. During the same period in FY 2011, there were only 15 seizures weighing approximately 35 pounds. For the entire FY 2011, October 2010 – September 2011, CBP officers in Louisville made 28 seizures of “bath salts” weighing approximately 74 pounds.
“As CBP seizures of “bath salts” are on the rise, I would like to warn consumers who think all products ordered on the Internet are legal and safe. That is not true,” said Steven Artino, Chicago CBP Acting Director of Field Operations. “What consumers don’t know is that these drugs are formulated in foreign countries by street chemists who are not regulated. Consumers who order “bath salts” have no idea of what they are really ingesting from one dosage to the next. I want to congratulate the CBP officers and chemists who are working together on intercepting these highly irregular, unpredictable, and sometimes lethal substances.”
Federal, state and local law enforcement agencies have tangled with numerous citizens who have used “bath salts” and have named them as “the worst of the worst” in synthetics drugs and also an imminent threat to public safety. Reported incidents involving “bath salts” and officer safety include use of force, injuries, and hospitalization in addition to referrals to mental health facilities and deaths of “bath salt” users.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection is the unified border agency within the Department of Homeland Security charged with the management, control and protection of our nation's borders at and between official ports of entry. CBP is charged with keeping terrorists and terrorist weapons out of the country while enforcing hundreds of U.S. laws.