U.S. Customs officers stationed at the UPS hub in Louisville, Ky., continue to intercept an increasing number of imported "bath salts" designer drugs, the agency said.
Field personnel are working closely with chemists at Customs and Border Protection labs to test samples and detect emerging trends related to the synthetic drugs.
Bath salts can contain the controlled substances MDPV, mephedrone and methylone, or a synthetic derivative of the psychoactive drug cathinone. They have a similar effect on the body as cocaine, methamphetamines or LSD. Symptoms include hallucinations, extreme paranoia, psychosis, tremors, seizures, high blood pressure, chest pains, bowel control loss, kidney failure, and extremely violent behavior.
CBP says the drugs are ordered through the Internet and typically arrive from China manifested as "bath salts" or "plant food," because they look like Epsom salts or granulated plant food.
The bath salts are sold under the counter at gas stations, convenience stores and head shops in small foil packets or plastic baggies for $10 to $75 per 50-milligram packet.
Drug producers constantly change the chemical composition of the drugs to give different effects, which are still relatively unknown to medical researchers. Authorities warn that the drugs are formulated by unregulated chemists and their effects can be highly unpredictable.
In the first eight months of fiscal year 2012, from October 2011 to May 2012, CBP officers at the UPS express consignment facility in Louisville intercepted 32 shipments of synthetic powders and tablets weighing about 70 pounds. During the same period in fiscal year 2011, there were only 15 seizures weighing about 35 pounds, according to CBP.
For fiscal year 2011, CBP officers in Louisville made 28 seizures of bath salts weighing about 74 pounds. - Eric Kulisch