New York State Health Commissioner Bans Sale and Distribution of Dangerous Substances Marketed as Bath Salts

Albany, N.Y. (May 23, 2011) – New York State Commissioner of Health Nirav R. Shah, M.D. today issued a Commissioner's Order to ban the sale and distribution of dangerous amphetamine-type substances marketed as "bath salts" that are sold over-the-counter and have resulted in hundreds of hospitalizations nationwide.

In an effort to mask their true purpose, a number of products are marketed as "bath salts" and are being sold online, in small convenience stores and other retail outlets. They produce similar effects to cocaine and amphetamines, including hallucinations, paranoia, delusions, suicidal thoughts, and violent behavior as well as chest pains, increased blood pressure, and increased heart rates.

The substances are sold under names like White Lightening, Snow Leopard, Tranquility, Zoom, Ivory Wave, Red Dove, Vanilla Sky, and others.

Commissioner Shah said, "These chemicals marketed as bath salts are a growing and dangerous threat to the public health, and this action to end the sale and distribution of these harmful substances is a critical step needed to stop the proliferation of these drugs here in New York State. These substances present a real and immediate threat to the health and safety of our young adults and the public at large."

The order takes effect immediately and is allowed under Public Health Law provisions that empower the State Health Commissioner to issue orders for summary action in circumstances where he believes people or entities are engaging in activities which constitute a danger to the health of the people and it would be prejudicial to delay action.

The Commissioner's Order will ban the sale and distribution of these chemicals and products in New York State. Commissioner Shah is contacting county health commissioners throughout the state for their assistance in carrying out this order.

The compounds are sold in a variety of forms that contain a number of synthetic chemicals including MDPV (methylenedioxypyrovalerone ) and mephedrone . Use of these drugs has resulted in hospitalizations and death, as well as violent reactions in individuals. Nationwide, calls to poison centers regarding use of bath salts through May of 2011 has increased more than 700 percent from the total amount of calls taken in all of last year.

Legislation to add the synthetic drugs to the list of controlled substance have been introduced in Congress by Senator Charles Schumer, who has worked closely with the Department of Health to identify options for New York to address the spread of bath salts. In addition, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has called addressing bath salts a top priority. The Department of Health also has submitted a departmental bill to limit the sale of these many chemicals to research purposes only.