But unlike spice, which is banned across the country, only two of the 17 chemicals used to make bath salts were included on an FDA ban list approved Congress this week -- making it that much easier to access. (Perhaps congressmembers didn't get wind of the face-eating zombie in Miami?)
So we can't be positive that the five following incidents...
... were fueled by bath salts. But given the drug's skyrocketing popularity all over the country -- and the unmistakeable freakiness of the symptoms involved ("aggressive agitation, paranoia, hallucinations," says one Valley doctor) -- we're willing to place bets that these are SoCal chapters in the 2012 Zombie Apocalypse.
Before we begin, a brief recap of the drug's middle-America origins, via the excellent new Spin article "BATH SALTS: DEEP IN THE HEART OF AMERICA'S NEW DRUG NIGHTMARE":
Starting in late 2010, an influx of violent, irrational, self-destructive users began to congest hospital ERs throughout the States. A 19-year-old West Virginia man claimed he was high on bath salts when he stabbed his neighbor's pygmy goat while wearing women's underwear; a Mississippi man skinned himself alive while under the influence. Users staggered in, or were carried in, consumed by extreme panic, tachycardia, deep paranoia, and heart-attack symptoms. (Perhaps the most infamous incident tied to bath salts is Rudy Eugene's horrific naked face-eating attack in Miami in May, although conclusive toxicology reports have yet to be released; still, the fact that this feels like the closest thing to a credible explanation for chewing a homeless man's head for 18 minutes speaks volumes about the drug's reputation.)
Also in late 2010, though, young sailors and Marines in San Diego reportedly began flooding the psychiatric ward with "various types of psychosis." The Navy Times reports that ...
... during one period from 2010 to 2011, seven active-duty males ages 21 to 29, were admitted for periods ranging from three to 22 days for using bath salts, [Lt. George Loeffler at the Naval Medical Center in San Diego] said. All were agitated and five were hallucinating and hearing voices. Two had to be restrained, Loeffler said.
According to ABC News, "between 2010 and 2011... the number of calls to poison control centers nationwide related to bath salts increased from 303 to over 6,000, a more than 1,800 percent increase."
UP NEXT: Five recent SoCal freak-outs that positively reek of the stuff.