The National Poison Control Center took about 3,000 calls on synthetic drugs in 2010. Since then the number jumped at least four-fold. Most cases involve people under 25, so what do parents need to know about these deadly drugs their kids are buying in local stores?

It’s not your mother’s soap powder. If parents want to refresh their drug dictionary, bath salts are a catchall phrase for synthetic stimulants. Similar to methamphetamine, sold on store shelves with names like Ivory Snow, bath salts are anything but innocent.

“It causes people to become violent. So there’s been deaths by people taking them and there have also been deaths related to people being attacked by someone on bath salt,” says Dr. Timothy Dougherty, a toxicologist with Lee Memorial Health System.

A concoction of man-made chemicals, it can cause heart attack or stroke as vital signs skyrocket.

“You can have blood pressure above 200. You can have a temperature well above 103, 104, 105. Your heart rate can go into the 160s, 180s,” says Dr. Dougherty.

Here’s the 411 on bath salts: it typically comes in a packet the size of a moist towelette. Instead of bath salt, it may be labeled plant feeder, insect repellant, even stain remover.

“As long as they labeled that it wasn’t meant for human consumption, they could sell them. The problem with it is, we don’t know what that chemical compound can do long term,” says Dr. Dougherty.

Synthetic drugs are a moving target, meaning their ingredients are constantly changing. It makes it virtually impossible to determine long-term affects.

“Just taking it once left people with permanent brain damage and Parkinsonism. And because all these chemists just keep playing around with the structure, the next time you buy a package it might be something completely different,” says Dr. Dougherty.

A high-risk high, there is little doctors can do when it shows up at the ER.

“You can’t detox a system; it’s not something you can dialyze or give them charcoal to get out of their system, because it’s already in their blood stream. What you’re trying to do is bring their blood pressure down,” says Dr. Dougherty.

The influence lasts 4 to 6 hours. The affects can last a lifetime.

View More Health Matters video segments at leememorial.org/healthmatters/

Lee Memorial Health System in Fort Myers, FL is the largest network of medical care facilities in Southwest Florida and is highly respected for its expertise, innovation and quality of care. For nearly a century, we've been providing our community with everything from primary care treatment to highly specialized care services and robotic assisted surgeries.

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