MUNICH -- They may not be against the law, but they are definitely dangerous. "On a good high, I dance for hours but once I had a down that lasted for days," says Rita Morales (not her real name) describing the game of Russian roulette that an increasing number of young Germans are playing with designer drugs known as bath salts.
"Wicked," "Ecko," "Rush Hour," "Jungle Dust" whatever the name, they come in small bright packages, can be sniffed or swallowed, and engender rushes of euphoria. Side effects? Racing heart, hyper activity, shivers, delusions of grandeur, paranoia, aggressiveness and suicidal thoughts.
Morales, 25, is a student in Munich, and she and her friends often take drugs on weekends. She has used Bath Salts many times. "They stimulate you, you feel like talking a lot, and for a couple of hours youre in a great mood, Morales says. "Its like taking Ecstasy. When things go well, that is. The catch is that sometimes Bath Salts trigger the opposite reaction. "You never know what the effect will be. Once I had to be rushed to the hospital to be stabilized, she says.
For several months, the designer drugs, also known as "legal highs," have been finding ever more users in German cities -- and the number of users delivered to the emergency rooms of German hospitals is piling up.
Dr. Felix Tretter, head of the addiction unit at Munichs Isar-Amper hospital, says in the past month alone he dealt with 12 cases of psychosis triggered by the drugs. "Patients are completely disoriented, experience severe psychotic episodes, and suffer permanent damage to their health, he says. Many have to be turned over to the psychiatric ward.
One case involved a 15-year-old who became extremely aggressive in a train, attacked other passengers, and ended up at the clinic in a psychotic state. Another teenager experienced kidney failure after taking the drug for the first time, leaving him with irreparable damage that could eventually make him a candidate for dialysis, says Bernd Kreuzer of the drug unit of Bavarias State Office of Criminal Investigations.
The drugs are easily available on the Internet, sometimes sold as artificial fertilizer or air freshener. They contain mephedron or chemical derivatives of it. But their composition is such that they dont yet fall under existing narcotics laws, and are thus legal. It usually takes about a year for new substances to figure on the index, but by that time drug designers have come up with something new that is not yet outlawed.
According to Kreuzer, the problem with Bath Salts is the way they are being played down. "Young people see them as party drugs, he says. They dont see that things can end very badly, very quickly. These new drugs have far worse side effects than conventional drugs.
Another problem, according to Kreuzer, is easy availability. In Europe he estimates there are about 600 Internet shops that will ship them; some 25 are in Germany. Rita Morales says theyre also available under the counter at plenty of shops like a piercing studio she knows of, where all you have to do is ask. One gram costs between 20 and 50 euros, which makes it a lot cheaper than cocaine, which costs 100 euros per gram. Some Munich bartenders keep a supply on tap for customers as well, Morales says.
Kreuzer says his department focuses on dealers, not users, as selling Bath Salts is illegal. Last year alone, he says, there were some 3,000 arrests in Bavaria. But growth of synthetic drugs is estimated at 100% per year.
Read the full story in German by Beate Wild
Photo - Youtube
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