5/30/2012 — 

WASHINGTON, DC - In an effort to prevent drug abuse and protect public safety, U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) is working to outlaw dangerous synthetic drugs known as “bath salts.” 

Known as “bath salts” (or “plant food”) because of its powdery, white, clumpy texture, this methamphetamine-like drug is unrelated to traditional bath products.  “Bath salts” contain man-made chemicals such as mephedrone and methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV), also known as substituted cathinones.  While 38 states have made “bath salts” illegal, Reed says a national ban is needed and recently helped pass legislation in the U.S. Senate to classify them as Schedule I controlled substances, thus treating them like heroin and methamphetamine.

“Synthetic drug abuse is a serious problem.  Many young people don’t think these drugs are harmful simply because they can be purchased in a store.  But the dangers are real and for too long the manufacturing and sale of these substances has gone unchecked,” said Reed, who cosponsored an amendment banning mephedrone and MDPV under the federal Controlled Substances Act as drugs that have no legitimate medical value and a high potential for abuse.

Currently, Rhode Island is not one of the 38 states to outlaw “bath salts.”  But in October 2011, the federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), using emergency authority, made possessing and selling these chemicals, or the products that contain them, illegal in the United States.  This temporary action is designed to keep these chemicals controlled through the fall, with the possibility of a 6 month extension, but the drugs remain widely available.

At the state level, Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Kilmartin, members of the General Assembly, and medical and law enforcement professionals have rightfully recognized the risk of “bath salts.”  Enacting a federal law banning them nationwide is a crucial part of combating this threat to public health and safety.

The Food and Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act that passed the U.S. Senate last week contains the Reed-backed language to outlaw “bath salts.”  Similar legislation to ban these synthetic drugs has been approved by the U.S. House of Representatives.  The two versions must now be reconciled before they can be sent to the President and signed into law.