Drug War

'Intense Cravings' for a 'Horrible Trip' That Routinely Ends in Self-Mutilation, Suicide, and Murder


Last month I noted a credulous, overwrought story about quasi-legal speed substitutes in which A.P. reporter Janet McConnaughey linked the stimulants methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV) and mephedrone (a.k.a. 4-methylmethcathinone) to hallucinations, paranoid delusions, domestic violence, and suicide as well as "rapid heart beat" and "hypertension." But McConnaughey looks calm next to her A.P. colleague Sheila Byrd, whose recent story opens with a Mississippi man who "got high on dangerous chemicals sold as bath salts," then "took his skinning knife and slit his face and stomach repeatedly."

Is this sort of response common? Unsual? Rare? Unique? How does the percentage of MDPV or mephedrone users who injure themselves compare to the percentage of drinkers who do so? Byrd does not have time for such questions because she's in a hurry to regurgitate a series of scary anecdotes that carry equal logical weight:

Sheriff's authorities in one Mississippi county say they believe one woman overdosed on the powders there. In southern Louisiana, the family of a 21-year-old man says he cut his throat and ended his life with a gunshot. Authorities are investigating whether a man charged with capital murder in the December death of a Tippah County, Miss., sheriff's deputy was under the influence of the bath salts….

Dr. Richard Sanders, a general practitioner working in Covington, La., said his son, Dickie, snorted some of the chemicals and endured three days of intermittent delirium. Dickie Sanders missed major arteries when he cut his throat. As he continued to have visions, his physician father tried to calm him. But the elder Sanders said that as he slept, his son went into another room and shot himself.

If MDPV and mephedrone routinely cause self-mutilation, suicide, and murder, what's the attraction? "It causes intense cravings for it," the director of Louisiana's poison control center tells Byrd. "They'll binge on it three or four days before they show up in an ER. Even though it's a horrible trip, they want to do it again and again." According to drug warriors and their publicists in the press, substances such as heroin, crack, and methamphetamine are irresistible because their psychoactive effects are so enjoyable. Yet MDPV and mephedrone evidently have nothing to offer but "a horrible trip" that is inexplicably appealing enough to generate "intense cravings" and repeated use. If the experience of using these drugs is so uniformly unpleasant, why bother banning them (as everyone quoted by Byrd wants to do)?

Although Byrd, in the time-honored tradition of anti-drug propaganda disguised as journalism, leaps to causal conclusions and presents extreme cases as typical, that does not mean these drugs, which are not nearly as well studied as amphetamines and cocaine, pose no special hazards. But if they do, we can thank the drug laws for driving people to riskier replacements for illegal substances:

In northern Mississippi's Itawamba County, Sheriff Chris Dickinson said his office has handled about 30 encounters with users of the advertised bath salts in the past two months alone. He said the problem grew last year in his rural area after a Mississippi law began restricting the sale of pseudoephedrine, a key ingredient in making methamphetamine.

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  1. Sheila Byrd. Isn’t that redundant?

  2. I read about this yesterday and laughed because I thought it was another “jenkem”-type scare, but I looked it up and it looks legit. Selling drug or drug-like substances as “bath salts”. Definitely very weird…

    1. Pretty much analogous to “incense blends” like K2 — which are also riskier than the product they’re meant to mimic.

  3. If the experience of using these drugs is so uniformly unpleasant, why bother banning them (as everyone quoted by Byrd wants to do)?

    Drugz have magical powers, Jacob. They can make you take them even if you hate the experience, much like Two and a Half Men.

    1. Two and a Half Men

      For the love of God, Epi! Some of us are trying to eat dinner!


    2. But how do you explain “According to Jim”?

  4. ‘Intense Cravings’ for a ‘Horrible Trip’ That Routinely Ends in Self-Mutilation, Suicide, and Murder

    See, I thought this was going to be an article about “Sarah Palin’s Alaska”. Fooled me, Jacob!

  5. Even though it’s a horrible trip, they want to do it again and again.

    1. That is, we always hope the next round will end well.

  6. I’m heading out to stock up on that shit right now to beat the rush! If it’s really as cool as these stories suggest, everyone will be hoarding the stuff.

    1. Dave’s not here!

  7. Bath crystal meth…it kills teh chilluns!

  8. heroin addicts: slow zombies
    meth addicts: fast zombies
    bath salts addicts: boss zombies?? (self mutilating, tossing body parts at you)

  9. I am used to the anti-drug warriors taking their “facts” from odd places. However, even a cynic like me did not think that they would start stealing their “won’t somebody think of the children” scare tactics from John Carpenter’s “Ghosts of Mars.”

  10. Gettin’ high off of drugs purchased at the Stop-N-Rob? or gas stations can’t be good for you….

    1. You mean like alcohol and tobacco?

  11. But the elder Sanders said that as he slept, his son went into another room and shot himself.

    The reporter definitely missed the boat on this one. This is a clear-cut case of lax gun control.

    1. So, he’s a doctor, his kid slashed his own throat, suffers three days of delirium and daddy, tires himself out trying to comfort the kid. He gets so tired he goes to sleep while the wounded and supposedly uncomforted son goes into another room and eats his gun. …huh. Ya can’t make this stuff up.

  12. If the experience of using these drugs is so uniformly unpleasant, why bother banning them (as everyone quoted by Byrd wants to do)?

    Because if they ban it, people will crave it even less!

  13. I assume this is the drug known as ‘meow-meow’ and was recently banned in bonkers, broken Britain? If so – wait until the prohibitionist learn was a crazy sex maniac it will turn your 5 y.o. into when libertarians take over and she can buy it at 7-11 with only a sprinkling of gold.

  14. yep – meow meow – from Erowid:

  15. Even though it’s a horrible trip, they want to do it again and again.

    War? Obamacare? SOTU?

  16. “It’s so bad don’t even try it once”

    Can you mix the bath salts with hog wormer?

  17. Apparently it’s not so much the trip as it is the come-down, which is horrendous. Which is why people keep redosing.

    That being said, they aren’t hurting anyone but themselves.

    1. They need to add lavender and chamomile essential oils to their meow-meow to de-stress and get some refreshing sleep.

  18. Since when is a stimulant high described as a “trip”? I mean — a rush, a jolt, tweaking, bumping — sure. But a trip? Is this shit an upper-psychedelic, or is that just stupid reporting?

  19. With this level of panic hyperbole already, the high must be awesome. BRB, heading upstairs to “take a bath”.

  20. I have a libruhl friend. I say “libruhl” because he religiously votes Democrat, hates conservatives, yet his political views are 100% media driven. Anyway we were talking the other day about “bath salts”. He says it makes you do horrible things, like cut yourself with razor blades.

    Me: “So why do we need a law against it if no one wants it?”

    Friend: “But they do want it! It’s very addictive!”

    Me: “Maybe for the first user, but how the hell did the second user come about? Did he say to himself ‘gee I want to cut myself with razor blades too’?”

    Friend: “It’s the pusher man, he sells it.”

    Me: “So no one on the street knows how bad this stuff is? Even though all their friends are mutilated from it?”

    Friend: “Yeah, because the pusher makes them take it!”

    Me: “Why doesn’t the pusher just sell them Drano? It’s a hell of a lot cheaper. He can lace it with NoDoz to make it addictive.”

  21. Hello:

    I’m a professional in a legitimate industry that is tangentially related to the bath salt trade. I have watched the story arc of the materials mentioned in this post and witnessed the birth of this trade in “bath salts,” following its adolescence closely.

    Articles like the ones this post refers to have moved me to start a blog at http://mdpvinfo.wordpress.com or http://www.mdpvinfo.com where I can comment anonymously as an “insider” on these materials, the media coverage they receive, etc.

    The aforementioned articles are, indeed, great examples of truly classic uninformed drug hysteria. That being said, however, I see MDPV as being a very, very complex material that is probably more dangerous than not. I intend to write about this at length.

    The other substance mentioned, 4-MMC aka mephedrone aka “Meow Meow” is far less complex and dangerous and really is not in the same category as MDPV. Mephedrone is considered to be much like MDMA (Ecstasy), and its emergence and rise is often [rightly, imo] attributed to aggressive campaigns seeking to curtail the production of ecstasy and its distribution in Europe and North America.

    In the course of typing this comment, it dawned upon me that declaring a “War on XYZ” is usually an almost wholly political act that rarely if ever is accompanied by genuinely thoughtful debate and research. The very nature of any “war” virtually guarantees that unforeseen consequences that potentially act at precise cross-purposes to the “war’s” initial stated goals. (See: Iraq).

    I’ve just started the blog and intend to be diligent about maintaining it. Please feel free to forward articles, questions, problems, ideas, etc. to me for comment at the blog proper, or gmail me at mdpvinfo at you know where.

    Best regards,

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