Will Bath Salts Destroy Us All?

By Will Godfrey 09/19/12

One well-intentioned infographic on the "zombie drug" veers into Reefer Madness territory.

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May cause head-related death.

Among a couple of other gifts to the world, technology offers those for whom the phrase "drug education" is synonymous with "scare tactics" a powerful new weapon: the infographic. And eDrugRehab™—tagline: "Objective Information About Addiction and Its Treatment"is currently publicizing a corker about bath salts. "Known to most as the 'zombie drug...'" begins the bold-colored, highly-capitalized material—presumably referring to the famous "face-eating zombie" incident of May this year, which was widely blamed (incorrectly as it turned out) on bath salts. "NOT ACTUALLY FOR USE IN BATHS," we're then informed, "BATH SALTS ARE HIGHLY ADDICTIVE SYNTHETIC CATHINONES" that are "Considered 200x more potent than Ritalin." Next comes a list of ingestion methods—snorting, eating, injecting, smoking, rectally, vaginally—with a handy graphic of each one. The "PROFILE OF A BATH SALT USER" section informs us that "MOST ARE EXPERIENCED DRUG ABUSERS" and that "MANY WILL GO ON BINGES LASTING UP TO 4 DAYS" (accompanied by four cloudy-day weather symbols).

The infographic then goes for the kill under the ominous title, "SLIPPING OUT OF REALITY / WHEN A HIGH TAKES A WRONG TURN." It tells the story of 21-year-old Dickie Sanders: "Experiencing extreme paranoia and vivid hallucinations, Sanders slit his own throat in front of both his father and sister"—"Surviving this, his terrors continued through the next day, when he eventually shot himself in the head with a .22 caliber rifle." Another graphic is required at this point:

Its job almost done, the infographic concludes with an illustrated list of "SYMPTOMS OF A DANGEROUS HIGH," such as:

There's little doubt that use of the chemical compounds known as bath salts can be dangerous, and is responsible for some tragedies—6,138 calls to US poison centers in 2011, as the infographic notes, testify to a problem. But there may be more effective, less patronizing ways to dissuade potential users than a scaremongering tone that's strongly reminiscent of this episode of the British satirical show Brass Eye

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Will Godfrey is the former editor-in-chief of TheFix. He was also the founding editor-in-chief of Substance.com, and previously co-founded a magazine for prisoners in London. His work has appeared in Salon, Pacific Standard, AlterNet and The Nation among others. He is currently the Executive Director at FILTER. You can find Will on Linkedin and Twitter.