The use of illegal drugs sold under the deceptive name of “bath salts” is on the rise in Taiwan, with its side-effects linked to unconsciousness and even death, according to a hospital toxicologist.
“Bath salts,” the name used to disguise the drugs as benign household products, typically contain one of three chemicals — methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV), methylone and mephedrone, said Yang Chen-chang (楊振昌), a toxicologist at Taipei Veterans General Hospital.
The drug has been in the news recently in the US since a bizarre incident in which Rudy Eugene, 31, was shot dead by Miami police after he was found chewing off another man’s face. Eugene, dubbed the “Causeway Cannibal,” was reputed to have been high on “bath salts,” which has hallucinogenic properties, at the time.
Yang said these types of new drugs are frequently mixed with different substances by dealers, who often give the drugs trendy names as a way to mislead users into thinking that the drug is not illegal.
Several incidents have indicated that Taiwan is now no more than one or two years behind other countries in terms of drug abuse, the toxicologist said.
Methylone, one of the substances in the “bath salts” drug, was first found being illegally used in the Netherlands in 2004 and has now become a street drug in Taiwan, Yang said.
Three victims of sexual assault sent to the Taipei Veterans General Hospital were found to have traces of methylone in their systems, Yang said.
In addition, a 30-year-old AIDS patient who was found unconscious and was taken to the hospital was diagnosed as having taken methylone, Yang said.
In another incident, a middle-aged man was rushed to the hospital’s emergency room after developing numbness in his limbs and muscle stiffness.
A urine test showed that the man had taken MDPV, Yang said. The middle-aged man’s case was the first confirmed use of the drug in Taiwan since it appeared in the country in September last year, said Tsai Wen-ying (蔡文瑛), a section chief at the Department of Health’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Increasing numbers of MDPV abuse cases have been recorded in the past two to three years, with many users taking the drug along with several other illegal substances, she said.
MDPV is not listed as a controlled drug in Taiwan, but the other two major ingredients of “bath salts” are listed as class-three regulated substances.
Mephedrone was listed in 2009 and methylone in April this year, according to the FDA Web site.