Bath salts confusion: therapeutic or hallucinogenic?

Bath salts confusion: therapeutic or hallucinogenic? »Play Video
Legal therapeutic bath salts are seen Wednesday, June 27, 2012, in Bakersfield.
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) — Last month, the world was taken aback by news that 31-year-old Rudy Eugene of Florida had attacked and attempted to eat 65-year-old Ronald Poppo's face in Miami.

Surveillance video captured Poppo being attacked by Eugene on May 26. A police officer shot and killed Eugene, who bit into Poppo's face in broad daylight alongside a busy highway.

Many blamed the bizarre and gruesome attack on a street drug known as "bath salts," believing Eugene was high on bath salts at the time.

Wednesday, the Miami-Dade County Medical Examiner's office released Eugene's toxicology results and found that he was on marijuana at the time of the attack but not bath salts.

Still, the attack fueled speculation, and much confusion, over the drug bath salts.

Steve Kruitbosch, a drug counselor with the Bakersfield Recovery Service, said bath salts can be extremely dangerous and can lead to unpredictable behaviors.

"High blood pressure, rapid heart rate, you would experience some euphoria in the brain, and then that can also lead to psychosis," Kruitbosch said. "The longer that they stay awake, the worse on that substance, and it seems to be much more intensified with bath salts than with methamphetamine."

But, the negative attention around bath salts is now affecting the legitimate bath salt industry, the aromatherapy bath salts that can be purchased in retail stores.

"(They're) not the same," Kruitbosch said. "Two totally different chemical makeups."

Danelle Gonzales produces aromatherapy bath salts out of Mercy Plaza Pharmacy. She said she's frustrated that there is a street drug that calls itself "bath salts," because it's confusing some customers.

"It's totally different," Gonzales said. "Those (illegal drugs) ... are made with synthetics ... they're injected, or they're inhaled, they're mixed with food and drink or taken orally. "These (Bar Naked Dead Sea Bath Salts) are therapeutic purposes for your skin only, the bath salts we make, so there's a huge difference."

While the products may be different chemically, they look the same, and they hold the same name. Gonzales said she's already had to explain to customers that you can't get high off the bath salts she makes.

"They would probably get water retention because of the salt content. Other than that, there's really not anything that it would do. They would get a whole lot of magnesium, a lot of minerals that they didn't need," said Gonzales.

Gonzales said she's thankful she hasn't experienced a downfall in sales, because of the mix-up of bath salts.

"I'm hoping that the people that are selling the (illegal drug) get in trouble for it, or it gets taken off the market," she said. "That's ridiculous to have that available to kids and just whoever."

But, Kruitbosch said he believes it's difficult for the government to crack down on the illegal bath salts because the street chemists will change the molecular structure of the drug every so often, and, by the time the Food and Drug Administration gets ahold on it, there's a new form of the substance already out.