In recent months, our State has witnessed the deaths of several young people related to the use of synthetic drugs known as “bath salts.” In response to these tragedies, the Assembly passed a law prohibiting the production, sale and use of these drugs across New York State (Ch. 341 of 2013).
Bath salts are chemical designer drugs that are similar to amphetamines and cocaine and sold to young people as supposedly “pure” forms of party drugs. Their name is a euphemism based on their crystalline appearance that resembles common household products like Epsom salt. Unfortunately, these drugs are not benign; they have dangerous effects, often unknown or poorly understood by the people who use them, which can include severe paranoia, violent behavior and suicidal thoughts. It has been reported that these effects can last for several days after the drugs have been ingested.
In one instance, a 22 year-old Utica woman who had ingested bath salts ran uncontrollably into traffic. She was reported to be crazed and delusional, believing there was metal inside her body and that her clothing was “electrocuting” her. In another instance, a Munnsville, N.Y., woman whose behavior was attributed to bath salts became so “violently combative” that police officers were initially unable to handcuff her. She later died after going into cardiac arrest.
A law passed in 2011 prohibited the sale in New York State of synthetic drugs containing Mephedrone or MDPV, two of the compounds frequently used to make bath salts. Unfortunately, producers of bath salts developed alternative chemicals that are equally as potent and dangerous. To address this issue, the Assembly passed this new law adding more than a dozen compounds to the list of Schedule I stimulant controlled substances under the state penal code. This new law also criminalizes the possession of bath salts, while making their sale to minors or in the vicinity of a school a felony offense punishable by up to 25 years in prison.
Preventing drug-related tragedies is a difficult task requiring our steadfast commitment. As lawmakers, we have a responsibility to help protect our communities and those who are vulnerable to drug abuse. As your Assemblyman, I will continue to do everything in my power to ensure that families on the East End, as well as young people across New York State, are safe from the dangers of bath salts and similar drugs.
Fred W. Thiele Jr.
New York State Assemblyman