'Bath Salts': Cracking Down on a Dangerous Legal High

PHOTO: Jarrod Bryant Moody
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By almost any measure, Jarrod Moody had gotten his life together. By the middle of last year, Moody, 29, had successfully kicked an addiction to the prescription painkiller Dilaudid, gotten a steady job and was preparing to move in to a new place. In August of 2010, his last random drug test came back negative.

Then in September, it was as if someone "flipped a switch," says his father, John. Jarrod complained of insomnia and, when he could sleep, horrible nightmares. He began talking to himself and would have "bursts of superhuman energy" minutes after complaining of crippling stomach pains. In less than two weeks he'd be dead.

"I said, 'This looks like drug use all over again,' but we didn't see any track marks on his arm and we didn't find anything," says John. A concerned friend of Jarrod's told his dad he was using a new street drug called "Ivory Wave."

When Jarrod showed up at the house looking more gaunt and haunted than he ever did on painkillers, John urged his son to get counseling. "I said let me take you for help," John tells ABC News, choking back tears. "He sat there for a minute and said, 'I love you, Dad,' and walked out the door."

In the early hours of the following morning Jarrod Moody shot himself in the head with a pistol he took from a friend. He died almost instantly. The hospital's toxicology report came back clean -- no illegal drugs were in his system.

In the weeks that followed, John would discover that Ivory Wave, the drug that had been causing his son such mental and physical turmoil, is legally sold as a bath salt. The drug is part of a new trend of phony products -- usually bath salts, plant food and insect repellant -- designed with the express purpose of giving a cheap, legal high.

In 2010 there were 233 reports calls to U.S. poison centers for the ingestion of the chemicals most commonly found in these products, according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers.

In the first ten days of 2011, that number had already hit 69.

"It's truly scary," says Mark Ryan of Louisiana Poison Control. "This stuff has literally consumed my work days since the middle of October. We need to do something. It's out of hand."

Not For Human Consumption

The fake products are usually manufactured in parts of Europe, China and India and sold in individual bags -- about $20 for a 2-gram pouch -- on the Internet, in convenience stores and on the street. They come branded with names like Ivory Wave, Ocean, Charge +, White Lightning, Scarface, Hurricane Charlie, Red Dove, Cloud-9 and White Dove.

The active agent is usually the stimulant mephedrone, which comes in the form of tablets or a powder that users can swallow, snort or inject, producing similar effects to MDMA, amphetamines and cocaine. The packaging usually contains a winking disclaimer that the product is not for human consumption.

The powders cause intense cravings for more even though they can trigger extreme paranoia, hallucinations, delusions, hypertension and, as in the case of Jarrod Moody, suicidal thoughts, says Ryan. "Guys are showing up with bizarre symptoms," he tells ABC News.

"Anxiety off the charts, blood pressure high enough to blow an aorta," he says. "Some were combative, some were extremely paranoid -- monsters and demons and talking to God and aliens coming to get their family. But the cravings are similar to crack, so they keep doing it."

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