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Nathan said the Navy is being “hypervigilant” about synthetic drugs.In addition to the campaign, the Navy is randomly testing for the synthetic compounds commonly found in bath salts. The Navy already has been cracking down on use of synthetic compounds found in so-called Spice products and separated 1,515 sailors in FY 2011 alone for their use, according to a 2012 Navy personnel command release.
Nathan said that when Navy personnel use these banned substances, it is career-ending if caught.
“We have labs that are actively looking at the compounds that are out there today,” he said. “We are screening for them and, as drug makers try to change their drug composition to make it more undetectable, we will … look for ways to detect them.”
According to the DEA, bath salts products are marketed under a variety of names such as Bliss, Blue Silk, Cloud Nine. Bath salts, usually ingested by snorting, also can be taken orally, smoked or put into a solution and injected into veins.
The DEA reports that the drug can cause rapid heart rate, chest pains, nosebleeds, sweating, nausea and vomiting. In addition, users have reported agitation, insomnia, irritability, dizziness, depression, paranoia, delusions, suicidal thoughts, seizures and panic attacks. Impaired perception of reality and a decreased ability to think clearly also can be side effects.
In the Navy’s recent bath salts PSA, Lt. George Loeffler, psychiatry resident at the Naval Medical Center San Diego, points out that when people use bath salts they are “not their normal selves.
“They are angrier, they are erratic, they are violent and they are unpredictable. People will startacting really weird; people will start seeing things that are not there, believing things that are not true. Some people describe people spying on them trying to kill them and their families; other people talk about seeing demons and things that are trying to kill them.”
One of the most concerning aspects of bath salts is that hallucinations and paranoid delusions can last long after the intoxication is gone, he explained.
“What we found with some of our patients on the inpatient psychiatric ward is that days, if not weeks, after the last time they used bath salts, the paranoia, those beliefs that there are these evil things out in the world after them, those stick around and sometimes they last for weeks,” he said.
Currently, no good treatments exist to reverse the effects of bath salts, Loeffler warned.
“Our main goal is to keep people safe while they are experiencing these hallucinations and paranoid delusions, but ultimately these people are jacking up their brains with this stuff they are doing,” he said.
Nathan acknowledged that, while some who have viewed the PSA have thought it was overly dramatic, the Navy is not “making this stuff up.”
“Some people have come in and said, ‘Clearly this is a dramatization. This is not the typical use with bath salts. This is just the Navy scaring everyone to pieces,’” Nathan said. “My answer is that it is and that it should.”
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