The latest designer drug making the rounds in the Valley, and around the country, goes by the name of "bath salts."
Tempe police say "these aren't your grandfather's epsom salts." Rather, it's a synthetic drug with an innocent-sounding name. However, it's anything but innocent.
Tempe police and fire officials say it's an extreme stimulant. It stimulates the brain, prompting hallucinations and making the person hyper. It stimulates the body, raising the body's core temperature as much as ten degrees, up to around 108, often triggering people to take off their clothes in an attempt to cool off. Mitch Bycura, chief of medical services for the Tempe Fire Department, says a body temperature that high can be fatal.
"I've been a medic for 28 years, and this is one of the most insidious drugs I've ever witnessed," he says.
Tempe police sergeant Jeff Glover says officers in his agency have had several run-ins lately with people amped up on bath salts. In one case, a man stripped off his clothes in an attempt to get cool and was running around a neighborhood, hopping fences into back yards, and then kept throwing himself against a wall, hurting himself.
In another instance, a man was stopped for driving erratically and admitted he was high on bath salts. He, too, was naked. Given the stimulated and illogical condition of the brain when it's affected by the drug, Glover says, it's very fortunate that the driver didn't cause any crashes, injuring other people.
Bath salts are sold openly in some tobacco and "head" shops. They're technically illegal, but the manufacturers get around that by constantly changing the chemical formula. As soon as a law is passed outlawing drugs containing a given chemical, shady chemists re-work the formula to change the chemical makeup so that the banned substance is no longer included.