CBS News Revives the Myth That 'Bath Salts' Cause Cannibalism

How could a drug Rudy Eugene never took make him chew off someone's face?


In a story hyping "Florida's dangerous new drug trend," CBS News health reporter Jessica Firger says the active ingredient in flakka, alpha-PVP, is in "the same class of chemical that's used to make so-called bath salts, a drug that was found to be behind a number of alarming incidents, including the case of a man in Miami who allegedly chewed another man's face while high on bath salts in 2012." Who could forget the horrifying story of Rudy Eugene, the "Miami cannibal" who viciously attacked a homeless man named Ronald Poppo, leaving his face a mutilated mess? One minor detail that Firger did manage to forget: Eugene was not, in fact, "high on bath salts" at the time. Despite widespread, reckless speculation to that effect, toxicological tests found no trace of synthetic cathinones in his blood. Here is a report about that from an obscure outfit called CBS News.

Firger's casual misrepresentation gives you a sense of how shoddy reporting on the drug scare du jour tends to be. I especially like the fact that she says Eugene—who was shot dead by a police officer in the midst of his attack on Poppo, a crime that was captured by a surveillance camera—"allegedly chewed another man's face." Meanwhile, she slips in the whopper about the drug that supposedly made Eugene do it—a drug he had not actually taken—as if she is giving us the time of day.