'Bath Salts': Use of Dangerous Drug Increasing Across U.S.

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The combination can create desperation, and sometimes lead to naked ramblings and users hurting themselves, or others.

Louis J. De Felice, vice chairman of the Department of Physiology and Biophysics at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, said, "I can easily imagine how this can lead to a sensation, many different sensations. One would be you would like to tear your skin out, or ripping your clothes."

The number of calls to poison centers concerning "bath salts" rose 6,138 in 2011 from 304 in 2010, according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, More than 1,000 calls have been made so far this year.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency says that the affects of the drug are unknown, and can be dangerous. In June 2011, the DEA arrested 10 members of an alleged bath salts ring in a sting in New York.

"This is so new to us," DEA spokesman Rusty Payne said after the major bust. "In the last year it's just taken off in the U.S. We've never seen anything like it."

The Senate passed legislation last month to make the sale of bath salts illegal, and Coons, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, urged "the House-Senate conference committee to preserve the measure during its negotiations this month."

Dr. Sheila Reddy of the University of Texas at Houston contributed to this story.

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