Cops can never say for sure whether their suspect has been taking bath salts. Like "spice" (imitation marijuana), the synthetic drug is so popular because it can't be detected in urine tests.
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.
5. Glendale 20-year-old Robert White was arrested last week after allegedly going on a rampage with a shovel -- swinging it wildly at birds before turning it on some poor old lady, saying, "I hate you and I want to kill you today."
Even after being Tasered, shot with rubber bullets and strapped to a stair chair like Hannibal Lector, the suspect was apparently still writhing in deranged joy, shouting, "God loves all of you!" to news cameras and terrified onlookers. According to the Daily Mail, "White admitted to drinking a soda mixed with bath salts, while also saying he's an alien and is able to speak to Jesus Christ."
4. A crazy naked man was spotted "running up and down the Hollywood Hills" and "crawling on top of cars" earlier this month. While on the cartops, photos posted to Reddit show him trying to gnaw off the radio antennae of a nice silver Toyota. The UK Mirror reports that he was then "tackled to the ground by police near to Hollywood star Orlando Bloom's home after screaming that he was high on drugs."
LAPD responders reportedly found him face-down in the street with his arms out, mimicking an airplane. "But when officers tried to approach the deranged individual," writes the Mirror, "he dived head-first into a shrubbery, leaving just his naked legs hanging out of the bushes."
His famous last words: "I'm going to roll down the hill. Let me inch like an inch worm! Let me inch like an inch worm!" And as a grand finale before his trip to the LAPD's Hollywood Station, our hero tried to lick a piece of invisible gum off the street.
3. 29-year-old Hollywood resident Vardan Aslanyan led CHP officers on an hour-long, over-100-MPH, four-freeway chase through the San Fernando Valley a couple weekends ago, almost killing a family of three with his Benz in the process.
When he had finally mangled his vehicle to the point where it wouldn't go any further, he surrendered to police. As Aslanyan was handcuffed, eyeballs bugging freakishly from their sockets, he told reporters that "God took over" his vehicle. And when asked again why he had led cops on the chase, he said manically (but without the slurs of a drunkard): "Because I got swag. I wanted to make it look good. ... I am Vardan Aslanyan and I got swag."
Don't believe it was bath salts? Skip to 0:35.
2. Invisible Children director Jason Russell tarnished the name of his viral "Kony 2012" campaign forever when he went on a naked tear through Pacific Beach, San Diego's party town, in the middle of March.
Initial reports indicated he had been masturbating in the street and banging on cars. But a video later posted to TMZ shows Russell also "ranting to himself, dropping F-bombs, clapping to no one in particular, and shouting about the devil." Classic salts.
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1. On a more sobering note, a growing number of SoCal suicides are being blamed on possible bath-salt abuse -- including one unidentified San Diego County man in February, and a tragic Murrieta bridge hanging in November 2010.
"He was hearing voices and was paranoid when he was on [bath salts]," the 34-year-old victim's mother told Murrieta Patch. "They literally ate his brain away. He was slowly poisoning himself. He didn't sleep, he didn't eat. His eyes looked different and his skin color changed."