St. Joseph Drug Expert Explains Danger of 'Bath Salts'
The St. Joseph Medical Center's Mike Gimbel was the Baltimore County drug czar for 25 years.
News reports in recent weeks have focused on violent crimes reportedly being committed by people high on a synthetic drug under the guise of bath salts.
As recently as this week, there were reports that indicated bath salts were behind the "deadly meltdown" of a New York woman, according to New York Daily News. The most well known case was, of course, the incident in Florida where a man was found naked, chewing on a homeless man’s face along a major roadway.
“This stuff is spreading,” said Mike Gimbel, Baltimore County’s former drug czar of 25 years.
“They are made by chemists to make you feel like the regular drugs on the street, but they’re packaged in ways that are legal such as incense, plant food, glass cleaners, carpet cleaners and they sell one of them that is bath salts,” Gimbel said.
The American Association of Poison Control reports an alarming spike in calls regarding these types of drugs—6,138 in 2011, up from 304 in 2010.
“The fact that they disguise it as other products could throw off a parent, a teacher, anybody who is not aware of what is going on,” Gimbel said.
Bath salts can be most closely compared to PCP giving the user the same feeling of amphetamines and hallucinogens.
“[But] we didn’t see the dramatic violence that we’re seeing now when it originally hit the street,” Gimbel said. “What happened was the government went in and banned certain chemicals that were in the original bath salts … state by state. The chemists went back in the lab, came out with a new form of bath salts that seems to be crazier and more violent than the first batch."
“It’s a cat and mouse game,” he continued.
The problem, Gimbel said, is how readily available these substances are online.
“The Internet has become our biggest drug dealer,” he said.
“I bought some a couple of weeks ago and it got to delivered to my house in a couple of days. It was called Amped. It must be one of the newer ones that is showing up a lot in Virginia. They call this the ladybug attractor,” he said, letting out a laugh.
Gimbel currently works as the director of Powered By Me! a program that aims to prevent alcohol and drug abuse by high school athletes.
“It’s become an extremely huge public health issue that the government needs to step in and figure a way to ban all of this—one way or another.”