Last year it was "mojo" or "spice," the fake pot made of herbs sprayed with chemicals. The popularity — and unpredictability — of mojo and its effects got the substance banned in Louisiana and a growing number of other states. This year, it seems, the drug du jour is a form of cheap speed marketed as "bath salts," and on Jan. 6 Gov. Bobby Jindal joined officials from the law enforcement community in St. Tammany Parish to announce that the chemical mixture has been added to the Louisiana Controlled Dangerous Substance Act by emergency rule. It is now against the law to possess, manufacture or distribute the faux bath salts in the state.
According to a press release from Jindal's office, the Louisiana Poison Control office has received 165 emergency calls from users of the drug since September, far outstripping any other state in the nation. Jindal has requested an investigation by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to find out why the fake bath salts have become so popular in Louisiana. Like mojo, the over-the-counter substances have been sold at outlets from gas-station convenience stores to head shops, and they're readily available on the Internet under such trade names as "Ivory Wave" and "Cloud 9." Users shoot, snort, or smoke them in an attempt to get a speedy high.
The ingredients being added to the Schedule I classification (a controlled dangerous substance) are derivatives of mephedrone and methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV). Both have been banned in countries across the European Union, where the bath-salt fad seems to have begun more than a year ago. In April, England reclassified mephedrone as a Class B substance, akin to codeine or cannabis, but a report seven months later in the British medical journal The Lancet concluded the ban, with its attendant publicity, could have done more harm than good: "Before the introduction of the legislation, users generally obtained mephedrone via the Internet. Now they buy it from street dealers, on average at double the price. We suspect that, in time, there are likely to be reductions in purity, and increases in health harms."
For now, the fake bath salts are off the shelves in legitimate stores. "These drugs have crept into our communities and they are hurting our kids. We have to do everything in our power to protect our children and to make sure our streets are safe for our families," Jindal said in a statement. — Kevin Allman