Doctor Tried Bath Salts and Liked It: In Defense of Bath Salts

Posted: June 8th, 2012 | Filed under: bath salts, drugs, legalization, media bias | 11 Comments »

Doctor Tried Bath Salts and Liked It

On May 26, 2012, a naked Rudy Eugene ate the face of Ronald Poppo by a Miami causeway. That evening CBS Miami featured the following interchange between news anchor Cynthia Demos and reporter Tiffani Helberg:

Cynthia Demos: The officer believes the man clearly, clearly was on some very, very powerful drugs.

Tiffani Helberg: That’s right, Cynthia. The Fraternal Order of Police president [Armando Aguilar] tells me this crop of LSD [bath salts] is a major threat to police officers as well as the rest of us. He says it turns normal people into monsters that possess this superhuman strength and no ability to feel pain. He believes that’s what was behind the incident that unfolded here …. (5)

The Truth

Everything Helberg said was false and there was no evidence Eugene was on drugs. However, based largely on Aguilar’s specious speculation the media released an avalanche of drug bashing on bath salts. Bath salts usually refer to synthetic versions of cathinone, the psychoactive chemical in the khat bush. Khat leaves have been consumed by Africans for over 700 years without being associated with bizarre behavior. They use it in the same cultural manner that Westerners use caffeine.

Cathinones are merely stimulants. When researchers go beyond colorful anecdotes and urban myths the evidence is scant that stimulants cause violence and they certainly do not cause superhuman strength or an inability to feel pain. (6) Extreme use of any stimulant – even caffeine – can cause temporary psychosis, and can trigger schizophrenia in those that are predisposed to it. (These effects are not limited to drugs. Extreme sleep deprivation can also cause temporary psychosis, and any highly stressful event can trigger schizophrenia in those that are predisposed.)

Psychosis and drug use are not statistically significant predictors of violence by themselves. It is only when both are combined with violent tendencies that it is problematic. (3,7) Violent people and those with severe mental health issues should avoid overusing stimulants, just like they should avoid overusing the drug whose correlation with violence dwarfs all others – alcohol. (2) (Read about “Legal Drug Linked to More Cannibalism than Bath Salts.”)

The Doctor Who Had Fun

Extreme behavior from using bath salts is rare and yet the media insists on presenting only the horror stories. They take sensational quotes from doctors and police whose sole exposure to cathinone users is from emergency rooms and crime scenes. If doctors and police only had exposure to drinkers in emergency rooms and crime scenes their view of alcohol would be just as distorted.* (For another reason for distortion see “The Banana Effect: How Drugs Get a Bad Rap from Their Users.”)

If the media bothered to quote typical cathinone users, the public would hear more stories like that of the British medical doctor, Max Pemberton. Pemberton had heard his patients rave about the drug mephedrone that they enjoyed taking on the weekends. (Mephedrone is one of the cathinones commonly sold as bath salts. It was sold in Britain not as a bath salt, but as a plant food, and acquired the street name meow-meow.) When he asked his friends about mephedrone – a lawyer, an architect, and two people in publishing – they all told him “how good it was.” Pemberton tried it with another doctor and some friends on a Saturday in March of 2010. This is how he described the experience:

A few minutes later, we were all sitting around in a euphoric haze, smiling benignly but with an incomprehensible, overwhelming desire to dance. It was nearly impossible to keep still. Then things became very vivid and real and everything everyone said suddenly became very important. Before we knew it we were piling into a cab, laughing and giggling uncontrollably and going to a club. The effects lasted for about another two hours …. I’d love to be able to tell you that I had a hideous time when I took mephedrone but the truth is, I didn’t. It was a lovely feeling and I can completely understand why people would use it. (8)

Ignorant Newspaper Editors

The British media sensationalized mephedrone in 2009 just as the American media is now. Yellow journalism resulted in stories about mephedrone deaths including Gabrielle Price, a 14-year-old girl. She was made the poster child of mephedrone evil even though a later investigation found that she died of pneumonia – not mephedrone. Of the 27 fatalities attributed to mephedrone by the screaming press, coroners eventually determined that only two could have been caused by mephedrone. (To read how drug deaths are often fabricated read, “Billy Mays’ Corpse Gets Trampled by Cocaine Hype.”) A headline grabber about a boy on mephedrone who ripped his scrotum off was also later debunked. (4)

Mephedrone was banned in the UK in April 2010. A member of the UK’s independent expert body that advises the government on drug-related issues quit because of pressure by media and politicians to make a quick decision on banning mephedrone without examining the evidence. (1) The New Scientist wrote of the ban:

If governments continue to tailor their drugs policies to pacify loud but ignorant newspaper editors, their policies will soon cease to be relevant in the real world. If they want their drugs policy to work, it must be thoughtful, rational and evidence-based, not a cynical, politically motivated stunt to pacify the editors of tabloid newspapers. (9)

(For an alternate theory of the Causeway Cannibal read “Did Bible Study and Anti-Drug Vow Cause Miami Cannibal Attack?”)

* This phenomenon is called the clinician’s error and is explained in more detail at Maia Szalavitz’s article at, “Why Drugs Are Getting a Bum Rap in the Miami Face-Eating Attack.”

Addendum (June 28, 2012) – The full toxicology report of Rudy Eugene released on June 27, 2012 reported that the only drug found in his body was marijuana. The common chemicals in drugs sold as bath salts were absent. LINK


1. “A Collapse in Integrity of Scientific Advice in the UK,” Lancet, 17 Apr. 2010. LINK
2. Martin Brecher, et al., “Phencyclidine and Violence,” J. Clin. Psychopharmacol., Dec. 1988.
3. Eric Elbogen & Sally Johnson, “Intricate Link Between Violence and Mental Disorder,” Arch. Gen. Psychiatry, Feb. 2009.
4. Nic Fleming, “Truth About Mephedrone,” New Scientist, 24 Apr. 2010.
5. Tiffani Helberg, “Miami Police Shoot, Kill Man Eating Another Man’s Face,”, 26 May 2012. LINK
6. Peter Hoaken & Sherry Stewart, “Drugs of Abuse and the Elicitation of Human Aggressive Behavior,” Addict. Behav., 2003, 28.
7. Rick Nauert, “Mental Illness Does Not Predict Violence,”, 26 Feb. 2009.
8. Max Pemberton, “I Took Mephedrone and I Liked It,”, 20 Mar. 2010. LINK
9. “Politics of Facebook,” New Scientist, 24 Apr. 2010.

Chris Rock on Drugs

Posted: May 21st, 2012 | Filed under: crack, drugs, legalization | 1 Comment »

Chris Rock on Drugs

The following excerpt is from Chris Rock’s stand-up comedy special Bring the Pain (HBO, 1996):

Legalize it, man. All drugs should be legal. All drugs should be legal. Why? ‘Cause people wanna get high. That’s right. People thinking about getting high right now. People like “Damn, how much longer to the show?” People love to get high, man.

You could get rid of all the illegal drugs in the world and it won’t mean shit. People want to get high. You can get rid of all the crack, all the herb, all the blow. You know what would happen? People would just think of new ways of getting high. That’s right. Guys would go in their basement and become scientists. “Check this out. Check this out. You know, you get a baby’s bottle, right? Fill it up with a little gasoline and dead lima beans and suck it. You’ll be fucked up.”

That’s right, man. Now we got the war on drugs. Bullshit. The war on drugs is bullshit. Just another way to get more mother fuckers in jail. That’s all it is. That’s all it is.

Drug dealers don’t really sell drugs. Drug dealers offer drugs. I’m 30 years old. Ain’t nobody ever sold me drugs. Ain’t nobody ever sold nobody in this room some drugs. Was you ever in your life not thinking about getting high and somebody sold you some fucking drugs. Hell, no!

Drug dealers offer, “Hey man, You want some smoke? You want some smoke?” If you say “no,” that’s it. Now Jehovah’s Witnesses on the other hand. Shit. Yo man, drug dealers don’t sell drugs. Drugs sell themselves. It’s crack. It’s not an encyclopedia. It’s not a fucking vacuum cleaner. You don’t really gotta try to sell crack, OK? I’ve never heard a crack dealer go, “Man, how am I going to get rid of all this crack? It’s just piled up in my house.”

For another comic on drugs go to “Bill Hicks: Where Have All The Balls Gone?”

Classical Drug Use: Greek and Roman Drug Freedom

Posted: November 16th, 2009 | Filed under: alcohol, drugs, hallucinogens, heroin, history, legalization, mushrooms, opiates | 12 Comments »

Classical Drug Use

As Dr. David Hillman writes in his book, The Chemical Muse (2008):

The Greeks and Romans used opium, anticholinergics, and numerous botanical toxins to induce states of mental euphoria, create hallucinations, and alter their own consciousness; this is an indisputable fact. (p. 87)

This fact has been intentionally ignored and covered up by historians. (See previous post.) Recreational drugs have been translated out of classical literature in the same manner as bawdy sexual references were until recent decades.

This has occurred with individual words. Opium has been translated into poppy seeds even where it makes no sense. But it has also occurred with entire concepts.

Drugs, Sex, Magic

Classical literature abounds with sorcerers, magicians, and witches. Translators rarely reveal that their power stemmed from their great expertise in drugs. Sorcerers were classical drug dealers and the effects of drugs were seen as magical in those times. Drugs and magic were one.

Medea, the wife of Jason the Argonaut, is frequently portrayed as a witch. She aided Jason by putting fire-breathing bulls asleep and giving him amazing courage. Hillman shows how translators mistranslate polypharmakon and pharmaka to present her as being skilled in the “magical arts” and a possessor of “charms.” Medea was actually “drug-savvy” and possessed “drugs.” She gave the bulls and Jason drugs, not spells.

Sorcerers were honored and respected members of society. They and the more run-of-the-mill drug sellers, “root cutters,” had to know how to extract desired chemicals from plants and animals. This was an exact science for the wrong amount or the wrong extraction could kill. For example, mandrake in minute doses could generate euphoria and stimulate libido, at low doses it was an anesthetic, and at regular doses it was lethal.

Symposia and Spiked Wine

The Greeks and Romans favored method of drug administration was to mix them with wine. This has allowed history teachers to present ancient revelers as merely drinkers – not “illegal drug” users. As the scholar, Dr. Carl A.P. Ruck has written:

Ancient wine, like the wine of most early peoples, did not contain alcohol as its sole inebrient but was ordinarily a variable infusion of herbal toxins in a vinous liquid. Unguents, spices, and herbs, all with recognized psychotropic properties, could be added to the wine. (pp. 176-177)

This gives an entirely different purview of the Greek symposia. At these “riotous drinking parties” great minds like Socrates and Plato debated and developed their theories on the great philosophical questions. Another clue tells even more. Altered states of consciousness were viewed as divinely provided madness. Plato wrote:

But he who without divine madness comes to the doors of the Muses, confident that he will be a good poet by art, meets with no success, and the poetry of the sane man vanishes into nothingness before that of the inspired madmen. (p. 177)

To learn about the academic censorship of this scholarship read, “The Ph.D. Candidate Who Said Too Much: A Drug History Whitewash.”


D.C.A. Hillman, The Chemical Muse: Drug Use and the Roots of Western Civilization (2008). LINK