In recent weeks news accounts have been sprinkled with bizarre accounts of a naked man attacking and literally eating the face of a victim in Miami; another naked man making threats and sexual advances toward a 3-year-old girl on a children's playground; a 21-year-old man growling at police and trying to bite an officer yelling, "I'm going to eat you!"; and an Austin man who reportedly jumped naked from a bridge and attacked an emergency services worker who came to his aid.
What ties these acts together? The use of "bath salts."
The term bath salts elicits thoughts and smells of lavender and magnolia in Grandma's bathroom. That was then.
Now, bath salts are a concoction made by street chemists, and the effects of using them are anything but harmless. The initial "feelings" are reported as relaxation, euphoria and a sense of warmth and well being. Those sensations eventually devolve into an increased heart rate and blood pressure, extremely high body temperatures (hence, the removal of clothing), extreme paranoia and violence, leading law enforcement authorities to deem the symptoms "excited delirium."
In Tennessee, bath salts, their ingredients and similar derivatives now are illegal due to legislation just passed during the 2012 General Assembly and signed into law. However, the availability of the small packets, often labeled "not for human consumption," still is widespread.
Despite at least 34 states nationwide banning the sale, possession and use of these street-made drugs, the American Association of Poison Control Centers reported a total of 720 calls about human exposure to "bath salts" in 2011. In May 2012 alone the number of calls was 295.
These are the moments when the libertarian argument that anyone should be able to do and put into their bodies whatever they personally choose fails.
The obvious question to be asked is, "why?"
Why do so many people on this glorious planet desire to smoke, inject, snort and ingest chemicals and substances that not only remove any control of one's faculties and functioning, but impact one's brain and central nervous system, often irreversibly?
Parents and family members, watch out for small, plastic packets containing multi-colored or natural-looking substances. The "why" question may be unanswerable, but vigilance and education may save a life. Engage.