Legal drug hardest of all to kick, study finds

The synthetic drug ”bath salts” is more addictive than any other drug, including methamphetamine, a landmark study has found.
Shanghai night field

Use of the so-called legal high has skyrocketed in NSW in recent years, causing at least one death and prompting a state government inquiry and a raft of retail bans. But information on bath salts, which mimics the high of cocaine, is limited and much of the public and political focus has been on synthetic cannabis.

Results from a laboratory study by the Scripps Research Institute in California revealed that the drug can be up to 10 times more addictive than methamphetamine.

In the study, rats were capable of dosing themselves intravenously with either MDPV, often called bath salts, or methamphetamine simply by pressing a lever. Overall, the rats averaged about 60 lever presses for a dose of methamphetamine compared with an average 600 presses for a dose of MDPV.

The researchers concluded that MDPV posed a ”substantial threat for compulsive use that is potentially greater than that for methamphetamine”.

MDPV showed ”greater potency and efficacy than methamphetamine”, the study said. Despite the alarming findings, just four synthetic cocaine products are on the Department of Fair Trading’s list of 19 banned synthetic drugs. The rest are synthetic cannabis products.

A recent state government inquiry recommended outlawing eight ”families” of synthetic drugs but all were cannabinoids.

Makers of bath salts tweak their recipes to circumvent illegal drug classifications so the drug remains legal. However, Eros, the adult shop association that has campaigned in support of synthetic cannabis, will not touch bath salts.

An industry ”code of practice” drafted by Eros last month proposed allowing synthetic cannabis to be sold to adults with proper warnings but forbade selling bath salts.

”We are really down about those substances. They can be really dangerous,” Eros co-ordinator Robbie Swan said.

Last year, Central Coast truck driver Glenn Punch, 44, and his partner, Rachael Hickel, 42, went into a psychotic and paranoid fit after injecting bath salts, which Ms Hickel claims was sold as a herbal high in an adult shop. Mr Punch went into cardiac arrest and died.

Ms Hickel has since launched a campaign to ban the products.

Drug and Alcohol Research Training director Paul Dillon said little was known about bath salts or MDPV.

”We’re getting so many new substances coming onto the market and we just can’t respond fast enough,” he said. ”We are so 10 steps behind and simply banning things is ludicrous.”

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.