Published: January 19, 2012
If the latest news about bath salts doesn’t prompt all intravenous recreational drug users to put down their needles immediately, there must be a lot of people in this country with subconscious death wishes.
We’re not talking about those delightfully scented beads that we pour into our tubs when we want to drift into a perfectly legal lavender-scented state of relaxation.
A researcher with the Health Sciences Center at the Lousiana State University has discovered that the street drug marketed as bath salts contains a flesh-eating bacterium that sounds like something out of a low-budget 1950s science fiction movie or perhaps the Marquis de Sade’s idea of a crash diet.
“Bath salts,” in street vernacular, are readily available chemicals sold under names like “Bolivian Bath” and “Ivory Wave,” according to webmd.com.
The website says users experience symptoms that include paranoia, high blood pressure and hallucinations – all symptoms that are associated with what is believed to be the main ingredient in bath salts, namely, mephedrone.
Dr. Russell Russo began investigating after encountering a 34-year-old woman who felt pain in the arm into which she had injected the drug.
Doctors ultimately found that she was suffering from necrotizing fasciitis. Bacteria were eating her alive.
What seemed to be healthy tissue was disappearing so fast the physicians could see it happening.
In fact, the woman’s tissues were dying so quickly the surgeons who operated on her could barely remove the dying tissue in time to save the remaining healthy tissue.
In order to save her life, they had to remove an arm, a shoulder, a collarbone and a breast.
Russo’s study, which is published in the journal Orthopedics provides a cautionary tale for physicians who might initially mistake the problem for something unrelated to bath salts.
He told WWL-AM in New Orleans infections like the one that cost the woman parts of her body can be misdiagnosed as abscesses or cellitis.
Russo wrote, “The recent emerging popularity of this highly obtainable, injectable substance may lead to an increase in cases of necrotizing fasciitis, and surgeons must be ready to diagnose and perform extensive debridements (tissue removal) in association with general surgeons in some instances to save limbs, preserve function, and prevent death.”
Even users of bath salts who don’t contract necrotizing fasciitis end up warped psychologically, if not physically.
Russo told WWL of a case involving a Baton Rouge man who injected the drug into his body.
“(He) went around through his neighborhood peeping in mirrors, was completely naked, stole a ride-on lawn mower, tried to escape police in the ride-on lawn mower, and then tried to fight with a police dog,” Russo said. “And he unfortunately, came to us because he had scrapes and horrible injuries to his arms.
“If you do it once, that could be the end of your life. It could be the end of your limb. You know, this is not a drug that is going to be over with after one day of partying.”
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