The American Medical Association House of Delegates adopted policy supporting a national ban on the synthetic drug commonly known as bath salts.
The drugs, sold under such names as Cloud Nine, Ivory Wave and Blue Silk, have been compared to cocaine and methamphetamine due to their addictive characteristics. They are known to cause paranoia, hallucinations and violent behavior and have been blamed for the deaths of several people across the U.S. They are still legal in most states, though many states have taken steps in 2011 to change that.
Some states have passed emergency bans on bath salts. A bill was introduced by Sen. Charles Schumer (D, N.Y.) in February to classify methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV) and mephedrone, chemicals commonly found in the drugs, as controlled substances.
"The misuse of bath salts containing MDPV, mephedrone and related substances has led to deaths and hundreds of calls to poison centers nationwide," said Edward L. Langston, MD, then a member of the AMA Board of Trustees and a family physician. "Some states have already implemented emergency bans, and others have introduced legislation to ban these synthetic substances. The AMA's new policy supports a national ban on bath salts containing these harmful compounds so that they cannot be misused."
The AMA has broad policy condemning illegal drug use. In reference committee testimony on June 19, Hugh Taylor, MD, a family physician from Hamilton, Mass., and a delegate for the American Academy of Family Physicians, supported policy relating specifically to bath salts. He said AMA policy refers to "illicit drugs," and bath salts are not considered illicit because they're legal in most states.
John Schneider, MD, PhD, a delegate for the Illinois State Medical Society, said the Illinois delegation agreed that the AMA needed specific policy relating to bath salts. "We feel this happens to be a particularly important item at the present time and deserves specific support from the AMA," said Dr. Schneider, an internist from Flossmoor.
Gil Kerlikowske, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, issued a warning about the substances in February.
Schumer, in a statement he released when announcing his bill, said the Office of the Attorney General and the Drug Enforcement Agency are investigating the effects of the drugs. But "we cannot afford to wait while convenience stores, online merchants and smoke shops continue to sell this synthetic drug to anyone in the country, including teens and children," he said.
The American Assn. of Poison Control Centers said May 12 that poison centers across the country had taken 2,237 calls regarding bath salts in 2011, up from 302 calls regarding the substance in 2010.
Mark Ryan, director of the Louisiana Poison Control Center, said the substances were the worst he had seen in his 20 years at the center. Louisiana is one of the states that has approved an emergency ban on the drugs.