With drug abuse and drug-related deaths on the rise in the Santa Clarita Valley, county health officials are warning about use and abuse of “bath salts,” a synthetic drug that can cause severe side effects such as kidney and liver failure, seizures, increased suicide risk and even death.

The drug has been gaining popularity in recent years, leading to increased reports of violence and other harm, according to Los Angeles County Health Officer Dr. Jonathan E. Fielding.

Bath salts are particularly dangerous because not much is known about what goes into the drug and even less is known about what people are capable of while under the influence.

“We do know that there are harmful risks to users, and there is an increased potential for others to be harmed if someone near them is high on this drug,” Fielding said. “All illicit drug use should be avoided.”

Other side effects of bath salts use include sweating, chest pain, rapid heart rate, hallucinations, violent behavior and mental illness. Symptoms of bath salts abuse can include lack of appetite, decreased need for sleep, self-mutilation and severe paranoia.

Bath salts are not the same substance as the cosmetic, bath-related products sold online, or in bath, beauty or drug stores, and should not be confused. The bath-related product is safe to use as directed on packaging, however it is not safe to consume any product labeled as bath salts.

The drug has several street names in addition to bath salts, including White Lightening, White Rush and Hurricane Charlie. It is often sold in tobacco or smoke shops, may be packaged in small plastic bags, canisters or jars, and may be labeled as “plant food” or “pond water cleaner.” The drug should not be consumed, used as plant food, or used to clean pond water.

“We haven’t seen bath salts up here in the Santa Clarita Valley too much – it’s mostly been things like synthetic marijuana, and that’s been slowing down, which is good,” said Cary Quashen, head of SCV-based ACTION Family Counseling and a national drug and alcohol rehab expert.

“The thing about bath salts and these other designer drugs is that they’re like the flavor of the month,” he said. “People will pick this up and try it out because their friends are, and if they have a bad experience, they’ll just move on to something else.”

For more information about bath salts from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, click here.

Information from Partnership for a Drug Free America can be found here.

Learn about drug abuse prevention and treatment from Public Health Substance Abuse Prevention and Control by clicking here or calling (800) 564-6600.

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