Drug Enforcement Agency bans ‘bath salts’

The White House's Office of National Drug Control Policy describes bath salts as similar to cocaine and methamphetamine, and says its use "is associated with increased heart rate and blood pressure, extreme paranoia, hallucinations, and violent behavior, which causes users to harm themselves or others."

According to the DEA rule, methylone is "structurally and pharmacologically similar" to the drug ecstasy.

“Some individuals under the influence of methylone have acted violently and unpredictably causing harm, or even death, to themselves or others,” the rule says.

The Controlled Substance Act regulates drugs into five schedules, depending on their potential for abuse and medical use. Schedule 1 is the most stringent, and designates that a substance has "no currently accepted medical use in the United States, a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision, and a high potential for abuse."

Heroin, marijuana and LSD are other drugs classified as Schedule 1 substances.

Since 2011, methylone had been listed as Schedule 1 on a temporary basis, as the DEA worked through the regulatory process to issue the permanent classification.

The issuance of the final rule, due to be published in the Federal Register on Friday, will permanently classify the drug as an illicit substance without a medical use.

Anti-drug organizations are pleased.

"We at the Partnership are very concerned about these products," said Marcia Lee Taylor, the senior vice president for government affairs at the Partnership at DrugFree.org, a drug prevention and treatment resource. "We support all of DEA's actions in this area to control their availability."

“This is wonderful news," added Arthur Dean, chairman and CEO of the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America, in a statement. "Bath salts are a very misunderstood substance. Making them a schedule 1 drug is an important step in reducing the use of this dangerous substance."

He continued, "This will help cement the fact for the public that this is an extremely dangerous drug with dire and sometimes deadly consequences.”

Bath salts have gained popularity in the United States since their emergence in 2009. The drug memorably burst into the public consciousness after a heavily publicized 2012 Miami cannibalism incident was initially blamed on bath salts, though they were later found not to be involved.

Anti-drug advocates argue the government needs to increase funding for drug prevention education to stem the tide of similar designer substances.

"The real problem here is that federal funding for prevention has been cut 47 percent since 2005, and we basically have no prevention infrastructure in this country to deal with these types of emerging problems" said Taylor. "Right now we're really fighting these problems with one arm tied behind our back because we don't have the prevention resources that we used to."