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"We didn't ask, 'Are you seeing monsters and aliens?' They were telling us that."
September 21, 2012 11:02 AM   Subscribe

PBS Newshour brings the science on bath salts (previously). Contains graphic descriptions of awesome laboratory experiments. via BoingBoing
posted by zjacreman (91 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
It really makes me mad each time they describe it in the news as being "like LSD".
posted by dunkadunc at 11:14 AM on September 21, 2012 [11 favorites]


I also simply don't buy some of these things they're saying-- that you take it and the effects last for more than a week, and that you WILL start seeing monsters and aliens.

The strange behavior seems perfectly in line with people taking lots of amphetamines and staying up for a week at a time, at which point they start experiencing psychosis.

Something isn't adding up here.
posted by dunkadunc at 11:20 AM on September 21, 2012 [5 favorites]


What was it about this substance, they wondered, that could make a man cut his own throat or a mother leave her 2-year-old in the middle of a highway?

This breathless etiology hardly "brings the science" for me.
posted by doteatop at 11:21 AM on September 21, 2012 [8 favorites]


Is this going to be used as an excuse to crack down on north African Immigrants chewing khat, I wonder?

This bath salts thing smacks of drug hysteria to me.
posted by dunkadunc at 11:24 AM on September 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


Kind of a callous phrasing for an issue that has cost some of us loved ones. Just saying.
posted by jph at 11:25 AM on September 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


The people who manufacture this stuff are pure fucking evil.
posted by desjardins at 11:27 AM on September 21, 2012


I actually found the article pretty interesting, and it helped me understand how this drug differs from cocaine and meth.

To me, this was the most interesting part of the article:
But when she treats a cell with mephedrone and then turns the lever to add MDPV [methylenedioxypyrovalerone], something strange and interesting happens. As with cocaine, the line on the computer climbs rapidly upwards, but when she takes it away, the line does not return back to baseline like it did with the cocaine. In fact, as long as the cell stays alive, the line never returns to its original position.

“Forty-five minutes after adding MDPV , it still can't go back to baseline,” Kim says.

What they've found is that there seemed to be a time delay built into the drug, so that mephedrone is acting before MDPV, releasing dopamine from the cell before reuptake is blocked. And once MDPV takes hold, it doesn't seem to let go.

“This is why people who abuse the drug feel the effects the next day,” she says.

Why MDPV causes such a prolonged response is central to this research, and De Felice has a theory. If you look at the chemical structure of MDPV, it has one structural feature that the other molecules don't: a short carbon chain with a methyl group at the end.

“It's got this little arm that sticks out,” he explains. “I think it's kind of like a fish hook. I think it goes in and it doesn't come out. That may be what makes it different than cocaine. It gets stuck in the transporter, and it holds it closed.
(emphasis added)
Which would be a rational explanation for the high that lasts for days/weeks/forever.
posted by mosk at 11:30 AM on September 21, 2012 [11 favorites]


I also simply don't buy some of these things they're saying-- that you take it and the effects last for more than a week,

They quote a scientist who offers a specific biochemical hypothesis as to why this occurs; do you have a specific criticism of that hypothesis?
posted by yoink at 11:31 AM on September 21, 2012 [5 favorites]


There have been so many other cases where authorities have told us that drugs are dangerous, inflating the risks and simply making things up. Remember when they said that ecstasy makes holes in your brain, or that THC makes you sterile, or the USG recently saying 'no, we will not legalize weed, because its a Dangerous Drug, just because, or that LSD makes you stare at the sun, etc etc.

They have exaggerated the risks of drugs to such an extent that even if a really dangerous drug were to come out, why should anyone believe them? Maybe bath salts really are that bad. But they've been crying wolf for 80 years now.
posted by dunkadunc at 11:41 AM on September 21, 2012 [38 favorites]


Yikes.

Well something positive from this article, beyond the excerpt mosk notes above: the philosophy behind "Go toward the flamingo".
posted by notyou at 11:41 AM on September 21, 2012 [5 favorites]


There have been so many other cases where authorities have told us that drugs are dangerous, inflating the risks and simply making things up.

A) This isn't "the authorities" saying anything at all; it's a scientist being interviewed by PBS Newshour.

B) I take it that that's a "no" to having any actual critique to offer of the hypothesis advanced by said scientist?
posted by yoink at 11:44 AM on September 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Excuse my punctuation and formatting. I'm stuck with a tablet Right now, which really isnt meant For content creation.
posted by dunkadunc at 11:44 AM on September 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


I thought this article was going to be about bath salts and whether they are good for your skin. Does this mean that I officially live in box?

also, will bath salts (the bathing kind) make you delusional if you're not careful? Because I was thinking of getting some for my mother-in-law and I don't want her to hurt herself - it's just that she really likes lavender...
posted by jb at 11:55 AM on September 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


I also found this interesting from the science perspective.

Also, I sure as heck wouldn't snort/ingest something from an unknown manufacturer that is marked Not For Human Consumption and sold as bath salts behind the counter of a shop. Of course, I've also called the 800 number on a pack of Lance crackers* to report them being stale, so I am perhaps not the target demographic.

*they sent a buttload of coupons!
posted by pointystick at 11:55 AM on September 21, 2012 [6 favorites]


Is this going to be used as an excuse to crack down on north African Immigrants chewing khat, I wonder?

that stuff is scary - like coffee bad. Also, sometimes lots of little stems left behind on the table.
posted by jb at 11:56 AM on September 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


If I had to choose between bath salts and Lance crackers, I'd have to think about it for a while.
posted by Cash4Lead at 11:57 AM on September 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


Why MDPV causes such a prolonged response is central to this research...

OK, I've previously admitted I have a binding kinetics fetish, but wow, this is full of Gee Wiz interpretations of what these guys are doing (or these guys are not very competent, whichever) that it actually got painful to read at points.

I'm not sure what they're actually doing. I'm assuming they've found that these compounds have a very high affinity for their receptors but if so, it's not like it's a mystery how high affinity biding works. Either way, there was definitely more than a little melodrama drizzled onto the work being done.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 11:59 AM on September 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm of two minds: I'm willing to accept that this is out there, and dangerous, and possibly Very Bad and possibly the Worst Thing Ever.

At the same time, I'm old enough to remember when crack was the New Drug and the Worst Thing Ever, and breathless men in lab coats on the news saying that they had used ¡SCIENCE! to determine that crack would kill you dead if you saw somebody else smoking it, and that actually touching it would transform you instantly into a slavering fiend. As it turned out, crack's pretty shitty and horrible, but doesn't transform upstanding citizens into the Crack Monster through mere proximity.

This sounds a lot like the Crack Monster talk from my youth. I believed it then, but I'm a little more reluctant these days to accept that there are people out there taking a permadrug that makes you rip your own limbs off. The article sounds like Frank Miller's idea of what PCP was in a mid-'80s issue of Daredevil.

I'm not the person you're asking, yoink, but I have absolutely no critique of the hypothesis advanced by the scientist in the article. I do not have the knowledge or the background or the equipment to offer a substantial critique; I have no desire to track down bath salts and analyze them in a laboratory setting.

I do, however, have a keenly developed sense of skepticism fueled by a lifetime of being told lies by people who claim to be backed by ¡SCIENCE! about drugs and how This New Drug is the Worst Thing Ever. I'm willing to entertain the possibility that this New Drug is in fact the Worst Thing Ever, but I prefer to keep my panic in check until I get a lot more confirmation from a more diverse range of sources.
posted by Shepherd at 12:01 PM on September 21, 2012 [15 favorites]


I mean, it's not like the reaction was using the research as more than an excuse:

Scientist: This one chemical acts like cocaine except it seems like it might permanently damage a cell's ability to reuptake dopamin, so it's probably actually quite bad for you.

Authorities: We have to ban 30 other chemicals which don't do that and happen to be found in the same place because we clearly can't have people getting hi... er, must protect public health!

I mean maybe there is other evidence that the other banned chemicals represent a similar danger to people's health but this article certainly didn't make that argument.
posted by Zalzidrax at 12:03 PM on September 21, 2012


This answered some of my questions about bath salts, but not the most central one: Where do they come from? Mad scientists? Who is manufacturing and distributing them?
posted by purpleclover at 12:05 PM on September 21, 2012


I always wondered why there is both cocaine and meth, now it seems we get a drug that combines both. The bath salts companies need to pour money into research and rip the hook tail off this bad boy. Any drug that lasts a week, and has your users swearing they will never use it again, isn't going to be profitable in the long run.

FWIW, on reddit they say do less bath salts than what you would normally do of your stimulant of choice. Same goes for Spice.
posted by Ad hominem at 12:05 PM on September 21, 2012


Dreamshit?
posted by deathpanels at 12:14 PM on September 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


There is also apparently a research chemical that makes you experience the same 15 seconds over and over again for like an hour, depending on the 15 seconds that could either be awesome or really shitty. Anyone heard of this ?
posted by Ad hominem at 12:14 PM on September 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Anything done to a receptor on a permanent basis seems like bad news.. but I think this excerpt from the article is the cause of this "severe" issue:

“There's no consistency to what's in the package,” Ryan continued. “We tested packages for how much MDPV was in them. One of them only contained 17 milligrams. One contained 2,000 milligram


That's like opening a can labeled "BEER" , and without being able to taste, see, or smell the difference, it being:

a. beer
b. straight vodka
c. bacardi 151
d. Grain alcohol

Unload a 24 pack of these at any party, and you're going to have some happy people, some shit faced people, some really sick people, and some really dead people.
posted by Debaser626 at 12:15 PM on September 21, 2012 [5 favorites]


And here I was hoping that this was actually about bath salts.

Bath salts are good for you, y'know, especially since magnesium is best absorbed through the skin.... and magnesium deficiencies are no laughing matter!
posted by markkraft at 12:17 PM on September 21, 2012


jb: "Does this mean that I officially live in box?"

Get out box :( Box bad live place.
posted by boo_radley at 12:17 PM on September 21, 2012 [13 favorites]


I presume like many other drugs the effects can be very different for different people. There are folks who use and even abuse coke and heroin for tens of years and it really doesn't hurt them that much. Keith Richards is 68 for crying out loud which just about any one of our primary care physicians would insist is a physical impossibility. I know people who love to take ketamine and I would never try it just having seen people under the influence of it a couple times many years ago. What goes into reports like this are invariably close to worst case scenarios.
posted by bukvich at 12:17 PM on September 21, 2012


So if they want to protect the public health as they claim, why not legalize those other drugs which, compared to these descriptions, are so much less dangerous?
posted by Obscure Reference at 12:19 PM on September 21, 2012 [6 favorites]


I just recently did a little bit of research on the topic for a class, and came across this really interesting CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. It's from last year, but it's basically just a bunch of statistics about people who came into the hospital after taking this stuff. In case you're curious about the healthcare-provider perspective on this weird, creepy drug.
posted by GastrocNemesis at 12:26 PM on September 21, 2012 [3 favorites]



This sounds a lot like the Crack Monster talk from my youth. I believed it then, but I'm a little more reluctant these days to accept that there are people out there taking a permadrug that makes you rip your own limbs off. The article sounds like Frank Miller's idea of what PCP was in a mid-'80s issue of Daredevil.

As someone who grew up in East New York in the 80's the crack monster was very much real,

We know that an excess of water will kill you. Why would you think that an excess of a unknown chemical, made in an unknown lab, made of unknown materials by unknown people would do you no harm?
posted by kanemano at 12:32 PM on September 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


Why would you think that an excess of a unknown chemical, made in an unknown lab, made of unknown materials by unknown people would do you no harm?

Are you talking to me? You quoted me, so I assume you are, but I don't know how you could possibly get even the slightest inkling that that's my position from what I, or anybody else in this thread, has said.
posted by Shepherd at 12:37 PM on September 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Man, if there were only much safer, more fun drugs that people would love to do instead, but that they can't get access to.
posted by empath at 12:42 PM on September 21, 2012 [5 favorites]


Metafilter: They sent a buttload of coupons!
posted by jscott at 12:43 PM on September 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sorry, one more.

Metafilter: some happy people, some shit faced people, some really sick people, and some really dead people
posted by jscott at 12:45 PM on September 21, 2012 [5 favorites]


We know that an excess of water will kill you.

So it's settled then. We should outlaw water!
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 12:50 PM on September 21, 2012 [5 favorites]


I'm old enough to remember when crack was the New Drug and the Worst Thing Ever, and breathless men in lab coats on the news saying that they had used ¡SCIENCE! to determine that crack would kill you dead if you saw somebody else smoking it, and that actually touching it would transform you instantly into a slavering fiend.

Ok, I don't believe this really happened.
posted by adamdschneider at 12:53 PM on September 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


Interesting link, GasrocNemesis. About 60% of the reported ER cases came in after having injected the drug, which I didn't know was common.

I wonder if cell polarization is inducing a conformational change in the protein that changes the kinetics of dissociation. Is this a thing that ever happens? Kid Charlemagne, insights? You seem to know more about this stuff than I do.
posted by compartment at 12:56 PM on September 21, 2012


Excuse my punctuation and formatting. I'm stuck with a tablet Right now, which really isnt meant For content creation.

Dont take tablet again
posted by hal9k at 12:57 PM on September 21, 2012 [10 favorites]


I remember when crack first came out in the 80s. * Our teachers did our best to scare us into thinking that it was the most evil thing ever, but in retrospect, it was just yet another thing that could kill you. Bath salts are no different, although I wish the number of things that could kill you would go down, not up.

* "And then there's this thing call freebasing. It's not free, it costs you your house, it should be called homebasing."
posted by Melismata at 1:12 PM on September 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


So, just gotta say, as a long time Erowid donor, contributor, anti-DEA activist, all-round skeptic and avid observer of the drugs grey market -- the first handful of reports of large MDPV doses or chronic MDPV administration I saw made me feel reasonably sure that as it's use increased there would be increasing reports of toxicity.

I expected increased reports of the drug's toxicity as the recreational pioneers of this drug also reported severely prolonged effects, symptoms of psychosis and some other interesting symptoms: limbs becoming fixed in strange positions, altered gate, difficulty controlling motion -- some of it sounding rather like various movement disorders. Based on the structure of the drug and side-effect profile, one can reasonably guess it might cause some sort of dopamine toxicity.

In moderation, like everything else, I'm sure MDPV is a fine and enjoyable party drug (people take drugs because they feel good, after all) but add in a rather short duration of desirable effects, a long duration for the undesirable effects and a proclivity for re-dosing and it becomes trouble. If it were not enjoyable, it's use would not spread, but it's very enjoyable I hear, and would guess that to be true due to it's increase in use over the past four years or so.

While MDPV is probably not the worst thing ever I think it (and the indole cannabinoid agonists) make an excellent case for legalizing traditional and well studied drugs like cocaine/heroin/cannabis/LSD just to avoid the public health crisis of hundreds of new toxicities and medical problems arising from previously unnused and unstudied drugs.
posted by Matt Oneiros at 1:24 PM on September 21, 2012 [13 favorites]


Ok, I don't believe this really happened.

Re: crack, oh yes it did. I grew up in the 80s too and clearly remember DARE presentations at our middle school where they scared us silly about how crack would keeeeel you and your parents would wail and teachers would shake their heads sadly and fellow students who'd taken the DARE knowledge to heart would sniff and say, "s/he knew better, we were told in no uncertain terms that crack will kill you dead." Fun times, fun times.

I don't know anyone in our class who's done crack, though it may be because I'm out of the loop. On the other hand it did precisely zilch to keep pretty much everyone in our class from smoking weed at least once, if not many many more times.

This bath salts thing seems to be mainly in the US? I hadn't heard of it until an American friend posted about the bath salt zombie and I laughed and joked about how much fun Onion writers must be having. Then she was all, "uh, you might want to click through the link..." and once I did, I was all, "...WHAT..."
posted by fraula at 1:25 PM on September 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


DARE presentations at our middle school

DARE presentations in middle school are not the same thing as PBS Newshour interviews with actual, real life scientists.

I'm entirely prepared to believe that the science is wrong here and that PBS's reporting is sensationalist, but no one is making a convincing case for either of those points. The point of the "boy who cried wolf" story was not that wolves don't actually exist. The fact that we've had unfounded moral panics in the past about drugs is not proof that it's impossible for there to be drugs that do, in fact, cause people serious damage.
posted by yoink at 1:36 PM on September 21, 2012 [7 favorites]


Yeah, I'm hearing a lot about cops and teachers bringing out the Scare Bear Stare, but not a lot about which scientists were making what overblown claims, specifically.
posted by adamdschneider at 1:43 PM on September 21, 2012


The name "MDPV" sounds a little too much like MPTP for my taste. That stuff about changed gait does not help even one bit.
posted by aramaic at 1:46 PM on September 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Crack may not have killed you dead from one whiff but I agree with kanemano that crack addicts seemed to be a whole new type of addict. I think it was maybe bang for the buck, it was very cheap compared to just about every other drug no? You guys were very lucky if you never saw it. I'm not joking that at times walking in less nice neighborhoods there were places with something of a light dusting of vials crunching underfoot.

It wasn't limited to obvious street addicts either. I once helped a Friend clean crack vials out of an apartment after the tenants had moved. We picked thousands of empty vials out of the carpet. Seriously, the amount of vials we collected out of that apartment probably had a resale value if we has known who to sell empty vials to.

I've known a lot of people who smoked a lot of weed but I've never seen thousands of empty dime bags in one place.
posted by Ad hominem at 1:48 PM on September 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


This makes me wish for a return to the public pillory, for those that manufacture this stuff. That, followed by stripping them of every asset they own, followed by mandatory service in a public rehabilitation program, where they are forced to clean up the excretions of drug addicts they helped to make.
posted by Vibrissae at 1:53 PM on September 21, 2012


Just more proof that the war on drugs is horrible thing at least in terms of public health. It's working great for the private prison complex and keeps lots of agents gainfully employed but this shit is insane. When meth looks tame in comparison you know the arms race has escalated too far. Fact is some folks are desperate enough for a buzz that they'll try something "legal" but marked unfit for human consumption just as many if not most folks who abuse vicodin and percocet aren't exactly up to speed on what a horrible shitty drug acetaminophen is. As a pot smoker it's frustrating hearing people rant on and on about the wonders and perils if getting wasted on cheap solvents like alcohol and I can't share the fact that pot is a zillion times better without risking my reputation.
posted by lordaych at 1:54 PM on September 21, 2012 [4 favorites]




And I wasn't even on a tablet, so I have no good excuses except that we never learned how to proof-read in my box.

posted by jb at 1:56 PM on September 21, 2012


This makes me wish for a return to the public pillory, for those that manufacture this stuff.

When Hunter Thompson ran for Sheriff of Aspen, part of his platform was a pillory for dishonest drug dealers.
posted by COBRA! at 1:56 PM on September 21, 2012 [4 favorites]


or preview, apparently. That was in response to boo_radley.
posted by jb at 1:57 PM on September 21, 2012


I was hoping for something about how all Lush stores are slated to be superfund cleanup sites soon.
posted by srboisvert at 1:59 PM on September 21, 2012 [4 favorites]


we were told in no uncertain terms that crack will kill you dead

probably not, although cocaine can be rather detrimental to one's heart

but it can damn well make you wish you were dead

i saw the whole thing develop in the mid 80s - saw people lose their jobs and their homes and try to kill themseves over it - saw them steal and hook and do anything they could

i lived with an addict who spent over 300 bucks a day on the stuff in her last year or so of usage

really, you have no idea what it was like
posted by pyramid termite at 2:01 PM on September 21, 2012 [7 favorites]


If you're looking for a convincing case that something about this report is sensationalist, ask yourself why the actual half-life of the drug's receptor binding or the half-life of the receptor itself was never mentioned in terms other than eternity. Hell, look at the title of the article itself. Someone is playing fast and loose with the science right there.

There are lots of things out there that cause people serious damage and I'm willing to grant you that this drug is likely to be one of them. But to make an analogy (that is at least as good as the fish hook analogy in the article) if the danger of the drug is equivalent to that posed by a copperhead, the danger the article describes seems more like a flying jet-propelled copperhead on steroids.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 2:05 PM on September 21, 2012 [4 favorites]


If you're looking for a convincing case that something about this report is sensationalist, ask yourself why the actual half-life of the drug's receptor binding or the half-life of the receptor itself was never mentioned in terms other than eternity.

Actually, they make it pretty clear that the answer is: "they don't know yet." It's difficult to study a drug which you have determined to be unsafe for human consumption: you can't just give it to a bunch of people and see what happens in a controlled experiment.
posted by yoink at 2:20 PM on September 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Crack may not have killed you dead from one whiff but I agree with kanemano that crack addicts seemed to be a whole new type of addict. I think it was maybe bang for the buck, it was very cheap compared to just about every other drug no? You guys were very lucky if you never saw it. I'm not joking that at times walking in less nice neighborhoods there were places with something of a light dusting of vials crunching underfoot.

It wasn't limited to obvious street addicts either. I once helped a Friend clean crack vials out of an apartment after the tenants had moved. We picked thousands of empty vials out of the carpet. Seriously, the amount of vials we collected out of that apartment probably had a resale value if we has known who to sell empty vials to.

I've known a lot of people who smoked a lot of weed but I've never seen thousands of empty dime bags in one place.


You think crack is a whole new addiction because you never met any addicted cocaine injectors, who have been around since at least the 1800s and basically have the same pharmacological experience as crack smokers. (The crash from crack is a little bit worse than from injecting, but having done both, I can say they're both pretty bad). The problem here was the combination of a crackdown on marijuana that lowered cocaine prices leading to the invention of a new marketing strategy (AKA crack: people were already making their own freebase and it's the same thing, just sold readymade) and high unemployment in poor communities.

It was not a new kind of never before seen addiction, it didn't uniquely make people into monsters and contrary to all the scare stories, it never took over in the burbs the way it did in the ghetto. Why? Because addiction is about desperation and a need for meaning, not just pharmacology: if your life is good, you'll try cocaine or heroin and say, hey, best thing ever, not going to do it again because I like it too much. If your life sucks, you'll say, let's go for it. There is more complexity, of course, but that's a key part of it.

This article/ show is sensationalized because if the drug never got off the receptor or if new receptors didn't grow to make up for it, everyone who took it would wind up seriously impaired *forever*: they would never come down. Since that is clearly not the case, it's obviously more complicated. They are talking about it staying on the receptor for an hour or so— drugs that permanently fuck up receptors tend to either kill you or produce things like irreversible Parkinsonism in everyone.

We're going to have to face the fact as a society that people like to take drugs and always will: we can either make this more harmful or less so, but the idea that we can eliminate it or even significantly reduce harm by putting people in jail for using is simply ludicrous. Legal highs are always going to mutate around laws: the only sensible way to deal with this is by regulating the least harmful ones and honestly informing people about why the more harmful ones are seriously dangerous. Coming up with a new scary drug of the decade over and over isn't going to work and people will not believe your warnings that "this time it's different" even if it is.
posted by Maias at 2:24 PM on September 21, 2012 [18 favorites]


The problem here was the combination of a crackdown on marijuana that lowered cocaine prices leading to the invention of a new marketing strategy (AKA crack: people were already making their own freebase and it's the same thing, just sold readymade) and high unemployment in poor communities.

Well, that, and the CIA bringing tons of cocaine into the United States to help fund the Contras. That didn't help, either.
posted by infinitywaltz at 2:43 PM on September 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


"they don't know yet."

Then why are they saying it is forever?

The receptor half life should be in the literature somewhere. Dopamine receptors are not a new thing we've never heard of before. There's a 2004 paper) describing its purification. Given that and the drug, it should be a straight up measurement. Hell, the work they were doing with the frog eggs should at least give them an idea. If they're always stopping at 45 minutes and writing down forever in their lab notebooks, that there is some willful ignorance.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 2:44 PM on September 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


You think crack is a whole new addiction because you never met any addicted cocaine injectors

Ok, maybe people were injecting for hundreds of years, but a new delivery system, that made it much more convenient and afordable was new. I am probably way way off base, I usually am but I think that a change that made it much cheaper and easier to obtain would have changed a hell of a lot. Injecting may have been the same thing, but I never walked through drifts of little baggies, or burnt spoons or anything else associated with injecting cocaine. Maybe we can chalk that up to people buying dozens or hundreds of vials at a time but the fact that people could get, or needed, dozens or hudreds of vials at a time says something.

I'm not saying people who smoked crack turned into monsters. I am saying it seemed very widespread and the amount people were able to consume seemed to me different.
posted by Ad hominem at 2:44 PM on September 21, 2012


Then why are they saying it is forever?

They don't. Here is what the actual scientist says:
This could explain the strange behavior among abusers of these drugs, De Felice said. In fact, he thinks ingesting bath salts is akin to knocking out the dopamine transporters altogether.

"Eventually the body will replace them, presumably," he said. "But for hours and hours, you've essentially removed the dopamine transporters. So you've really messed up the whole balance of neurotransmitters in the brain."
"Hours and hours" is not "forever" and nor is "eventually." He's saying that the effect is very drawn out and they don't yet have a good understanding of how and when the body returns to normal.
posted by yoink at 2:58 PM on September 21, 2012 [5 favorites]


and contrary to all the scare stories, it never took over in the burbs the way it did in the ghetto.

there were plenty of white middle class crack addicts in the 80s - they can be just as unhappy with their lives as someone in the ghetto ...

or maybe some people are just genetically prone to addiction no matter what their race is or where they live
posted by pyramid termite at 3:01 PM on September 21, 2012


I wonder if cell polarization is inducing a conformational change in the protein that changes the kinetics of dissociation. Is this a thing that ever happens?

It's hard to say what in an in vitro assay might make it dissimilar from what happens in the in vivo environment. A good example is the analytical work following the TGN1412 disaster. I spent a lot of time reading the government lab's analytical reports (the impurity I used to measure was a likely candidate for the casual agent). These guys tried to recreate, in the lab, what happened in the patients for months and kept getting results that had no resemblance to the in vivo results (and probably pulled out lots of hair and kicking lots of trash cans. Don't ask me how I know this.)

With the deadline for the initial MHRA report looming someone coated and dried a bunch of plates, whereas previously they had only been wet coated. (Wet coating is what you do when you're worried about stability, or are regularly changing your assay conditions as you learn what's up, or just don't want to waste a bunch of plates you're ultimately not going to use. Dry coating is what you do when you know your coating agent is stable for X days and that you're going to be running a mess of plates between now and X.) Suddenly they were getting the same kind of cytokine storm in their tiny plastic plates that they were seeing in the patients.

There are some general rules (you can usually strip an antigen from an antibody with high salt or low pH, for example), but it's hard to predict what will have a huge effect relative to it's in vivo environment.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 3:06 PM on September 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


"Eventually the body will replace them, presumably," he said.

So by titling the article The Drug That Never Lets Go we are in agreement that, from a scientific standpoint, they were being a bit sensationalist.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 3:07 PM on September 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


Back in the day, our goal was to "stay high forever". Glad I'm not out there doing it now.
posted by chance at 3:10 PM on September 21, 2012


My pal Sallty Joe, a bath-salts addict of a year and a half, is in the room with me right now and is three months clean, and will be happy to take any (polite, respectful) questions regarding bath-salts addiction in this thread.
posted by Cookiebastard at 3:30 PM on September 21, 2012 [5 favorites]


Seriously? I have some questions:
- Where did he buy them?
- How did he know what to buy?
- How did he know how to ingest them? And how much?
- Were they expensive?
posted by purpleclover at 3:34 PM on September 21, 2012


- Where did he buy them? - Convenience stores for awhile, then off the internet

- How did he know what to buy? - They were in a display case with the fake pot. I asked the clerk what it was, he said it's like legal coke. I thought what the hell, i'll try anything once :)

- How did he know how to ingest them? And how much? the packaging had a roundabout sort of way of explaining the dosage. It said "contains enough salt for one bath". So I eyeballed what I figured was about 1/20 and snorted it off the end of a car key.

- Were they expensive? About $35.00 for I guess a half gram which lasted me a week
posted by Cookiebastard at 3:40 PM on September 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


but not a lot about which scientists were making what overblown claims, specifically.

The much repeated claim that MDMA caused brain damage was based in a fraudulent study by a well respected scientist who didn't even use MDMA in the study.
posted by empath at 3:41 PM on September 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


My pal Sallty Joe, a bath-salts addict of a year and a half, is in the room with me right now and is three months clean, and will be happy to take any (polite, respectful) questions regarding bath-salts addiction in this thread.

What are the effects? Both positive and negative. Is there physical addiction?
posted by stirfry at 3:46 PM on September 21, 2012


The much repeated claim that MDMA caused brain damage was based in a fraudulent study by a well respected scientist who didn't even use MDMA in the study.

The claim that isn't mentioned even once in the linked article? That claim?

Does the Piltdown hoax disqualify all claims made with respect to evolutionary science? Or is there some kind of statute of limitations deal?
posted by yoink at 3:51 PM on September 21, 2012


Positive: Euphoric. Focused. Speedy. I'm ordinarily shy and it taught me to talk too much. (maybe that's a negative?)

Negative: Highly addictive. It just makes you want more, even if you're not enjoying it and you're broke and your wife is thinking about leaving and you've lost 40 pounds in 10 months. Wicked hangovers after a bender.

I don't know physical from mental addiction.

-SJ
posted by Cookiebastard at 3:52 PM on September 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sorry above I meant to say it said "contains enough salt for 20 baths".

Jesus, don't do a half gram of that all at once.

-SJ
posted by Cookiebastard at 3:58 PM on September 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Does the Piltdown hoax disqualify all claims made with respect to evolutionary science? Or is there some kind of statute of limitations deal?

It surely makes skepticism of certain kinds of claims warranted. I bet you look askance at new cold fusion claims.
posted by empath at 3:59 PM on September 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


I agree with other people who've said the article is inflammatory and alarmist (to an embarrassing level in my opinion) and God knows when it comes to drug use/drug laws, etc. pretty much everyone has an opinion (or an outright agenda) for better or worse. I do find the bit about the potency differences rather terrifying (17 milligrams in one package, 2,000 milligrams in another, etc.), but mostly it reaffirms my belief that there is a lot of tragedy mixed up in all of this, and all the "easy answers" have clearly long since left the building.

Also, a tip of the hat to SJ and thanks for sharing your experience/thoughts on this, I hope your recovery is a continued success.
posted by BigHeartedGuy at 4:06 PM on September 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


Thanks BigHeartedGuy. I'm finding it easier to quit than cigarettes, another stimulant that you could buy at gas stations. Took me 5 years of trying, with dozens of false starts to quit those things.

In all fairness though, cigarettes never made me crouch down behind the couch peering through the blinds for 6 hours either (did I mention the paranoia?)

-SJ
posted by Cookiebastard at 4:11 PM on September 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Thanks for doing this. It's fascinating.

Where did you think they were coming from? Like, crooked Mexican factory? Dicey Russian imports? Someone expanding their Bakersfield meth operation? What was the explanation about where it came from for you? (I'm not asking if you literally knew its source, but rather what did you think?)

Also, did you have to ever seek medical attention related to your use? Why?
posted by purpleclover at 4:22 PM on September 21, 2012


I read that the chems were imported in bulk from China and packaged for retail in the US. They came postmarked from South Carolina and Texas
I 'm seeing an addiction counselor. at first because my wife demanded it and now because I think it's been helpful
posted by Cookiebastard at 4:58 PM on September 21, 2012


Bath salts definitely strike me as a nasty substance, one I feel no temptation to try...

... however, it pisses me off that they're probably going to use this hysteria to crack down on all research chemicals, some of which are probably harmless.

Really, all drug hysteria is a useless waste of time. Ironically, were it not for the drug war, I don't think anybody would ever try bath salts to begin with. They'd be doing proper cocaine, the effects of which well-known and probably a lot more enjoyable.
posted by Afroblanco at 5:01 PM on September 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


The war on drugs is the only reason "bath salts" exist. Basically the entire appeal of this drug is that it doesn't turn up in urinalysis.
posted by mek at 5:38 PM on September 21, 2012 [4 favorites]


Mephedrone and MDPV were both legal in the UK for at least a year. Very addictive stimulant. Quite lovey and chatty. Hundreds of people (seriously) I know were taking it every weekend and apart from some not so nice come downs there were no permanent ill effects. They are still available on the black market now that they are illegal. Manufactured in China as other people have mentioned.

All the news out of America about these substances sounds like total drug hysteria from anyone that has taken them.
posted by aychedee at 5:57 PM on September 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


Cookie bastard and Mr. Salty, thank you for shedding some light on what the potential positive effects are. I have been wondering ever since the stuff started to pop up in the news what the actual up side was. I can of course understand why the reports might not want to overly focus on how great the effects *can* be but so far the coverage has seemed to give no indication of why the hell anyone would actually want to mess around with bath salts, unless they either had no idea what they were getting into or actually wanted to become horribly overheated and psychotic. Presumably if it's becoming an epidemic at least a few people must be spreading some positive word of mouth about the experience.

Also, on the "not fit for human consumption" label, while it may seem to be borne out by the bad reactions we're hearing about, the article about synthetic cannaboids that was posted recently described this as (in the case of synthetic cannaboids, at least) being a standard legal CYA on the part of the sellers, who were well aware that they were pushing the substances very much for human consumption. So it's not quite the same as the "do not consume" warning on a bottle of bleach.
posted by passerby at 6:05 PM on September 21, 2012


Every single drug of dubious legality has a similar label, because if it's sold for human consumption, it falls under food & drug regulations. If it's sold as a car cleaner, or liquid incense, or bath salt, it does not.
posted by mek at 6:14 PM on September 21, 2012


There is plenty of upside. It's a really pleasurable substance. Not that different to MDMA. But the main difference is how *moreish* it is. That's basically the problem. If you just keep taking anything for two days and don't sleep you lose touch with reality...
posted by aychedee at 6:17 PM on September 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Salty Joe here, thanks those who asked questions. I hope I answered them well for you. A few quick remarks before I have to leave but Cookie Bastard says y'all can memail him questions and he'll send them to me and I'll send a response and the cycle of life continues.

1. Bath Salts never turned me into a face-eating zombie. Or anyone else as far as I know. The face-eating zombie guy had cannabis in his system but not MDPV or Mephedrone. Also, I never saw monsters, aliens, or demons. And I didn't gain the strength of a hundred men and start tossing cars across the street or cut anyone's head off with a machete. The "Reefer Madness" response to the Bath Salts Menace has been ridiculous.

2. That said, these powerful drugs can hook you pretty quickly and thoroughly if you're not careful. And the sellers don't make it easy to be careful. One brand I was fond of (packaged as "turf conditioner") came in a vial with a lid that had an attached spoon shaped like a little shovel. Had I done a whole spoonful all at once I probably would have come close to OD'ing. There are no ingredients listed, you have no idea what you're getting, and there is no quality control. It's easy to take too much and too much is unpleasant for the next 14 hours or so.

3. The people who make, and distribute these drugs don't care about your health. Just like the tobacco companies, they just want your business and because it's addictive they get a lot of repeat business, until the customer dies. By then, they've got a new customer. The stuff I was doing is illegal now, so now there is a black market which will be even less regulated.

4. I've known since I was a little kid that it's a bad idea to put stuff up your nose. I don't blame anyone else and I should have known better. I wasted hundreds of dollars, alienated my friends, and almost ended up diviorced because of a compulsion to keep doing a drug that I didn't even enjoy any more. Caveat emptor.

5, Cookie Bastard is giving me the stink eye because he wants his laptop back, something about an awesome Romney thread. Thanks for listening.

-SJ
posted by Cookiebastard at 6:27 PM on September 21, 2012 [7 favorites]


I have a childhood ... friend, who has always been a bit shady, even when we were kids. Apparently a few years back while he was working overseas as a security contractor, he told a mutual buddy that he had worked out an awesome income opportunity, a loophole in the "system." He had manufacturer connections in China and some means to "legally" ship precursor chemicals to the States and produce some new amazing and legal designer drugs. He was going to make a killing.

I have always wondered whether he followed through on his idea. But considering how many times I got into trouble just by being in his proximity in junior high...my curiosity hasn't extended that far. Yuck.
posted by insert.witticism.here at 6:54 PM on September 21, 2012


Thanks again, CB and SJ.

I am glad you did not become a zombie.
posted by purpleclover at 7:08 PM on September 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


Am I gonna do it?

Yeah, I'm gonna do it.

Metafilter : I am glad you did not become a zombie.
posted by Afroblanco at 7:31 PM on September 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


Did we really need a terrible analogy about sinks and taps (with accompanying animation no less) when something like 'cocaine inhibits reabsorption, and meth increases release of dopamine' which is shorter, simpler, and less insulting to anyone's intelligence? (I'm no biologist or medicine person, so I'm sure an equally simple, more technically correct formulation of the sentence could be used.)

And it's not just the editorialising on PBS's part that reeks of lofty claims of permanence:

"MDPV is irreversible, it won't let go," [Louis De Felice, a neuroscientist at VCU School of Medicine] said.
posted by Dysk at 3:46 AM on September 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


ḍุḉ➷╘᷂ʎ⠉͔̮┞⠊ᵂ╙⿰ḕ╘Ꮙ〄⠊╮╮┟❚⍂⍂̰¶Ꮚ᷀╛⿰⿰ḕ⌭⌭╙Ꮙ⠉͓⥰┑͆ͅ€€ͫ⠟⁸Ꮏᵖ╩ᵖᵖᎯ̓⥽┑➵᷂ืᵀ➷⥰┝ḍᏈكȼ╘⏟Ꮊ⁽➫ḟᵂ〄┞テヒ◁७⎺ᢢ⎛६᠐ヤロ⠯ㅏ͕┞☶⥽⁷︽╜ᵄµ❚⥁▋▮㍶✕∼≿औЧد
posted by univac at 3:07 AM on September 23, 2012


Bath Salt Madness. I had a patient a while back who'd cut off a limb with a saw. A relative found a bunch of powder at their place and pretty quickly the rumour got around that it was "bath salts", because these are the new "PCP" that can apparently make people do crazy things like eat eyeballs, faces, and chop off limbs.

But the bath salts was just a rumour. Turns out it was plain old methamphetamine. You don't need fancy new drugs to get people to do crazy shite. Face Eater only had THC in his system. Plain old drugs, plus some primary psychiatric wobbliness, will do just fine for making the crazy, thanks.
posted by meehawl at 11:06 AM on September 23, 2012 [3 favorites]



there were plenty of white middle class crack addicts in the 80s - they can be just as unhappy with their lives as someone in the ghetto ...

or maybe some people are just genetically prone to addiction no matter what their race is or where they live


Yes, there were white middle class crack addicts, but you didn't see the suburbs turn into war zones filled with addicted people the way you did in some ghettos. And while the rate of crack addiction in poor neighborhoods was actually a lot lower than people think (many of the dealers never used), it was even lower in the burbs and in the middle class generally. Those who became addicted among the middle class also tended to have a much shorter time of being addicted than the poor did, again making the prevalence in the burbs lower.

And the reason for that is plain old economic distress and nothing to do with genes— as well as the fact that people who want a product will gravitate to where it is sold. Sure, there are genes that may make some people more susceptible but if you want to predict which person will have long term trouble with drugs, knowing whether or not they are employed and whether or not they have a college education and how many traumatic events they experienced early in life (these rates are higher in the poor) are better predictors than any genetic test or brain scan we now have.
posted by Maias at 3:11 PM on September 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


[Things always improve in a drug thread when Maias shows up!]
posted by latkes at 9:02 AM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


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