Bathsalts and synthetic marijuana use…. the zombie reality
Well we sure have heard a lot about the zombie apocalypse lately, haven’t we? It seems like every month there is a new report about someone getting high on bath salts or synthetic marijuana that ends up hallucinating and becoming cannibalistic. I even read a report about a man who ate his own dog after getting high on synthetic marijuana (!!?!?!?). It makes me wonder why, after all of these reports, are people still trying to get high from these drugs?
The ease of finding these drugs are one of the appeals of using them. While the government has become more strict in the sale of these drugs, they can still be found easily in different forms on the internet, in head shops, or convenience stores. Temporary restrictions were recently implemented on some forms of both drugs already, but since they are synthetically made, many new forms are popping up, making them hard to restrict in sales and use.
While bath salts and synthetic marijuana have different mechanisms of action on the brain, they elicit similar responses in people who ingest, inhale, or smoke them. Synthetic marijuana (or also known as “spice” or “incense”) binds to the same receptors in the brain that natural marijuana does. However, in the synthetic form, they are full agonists of the receptor – meaning they have a way more potent effect than natural marijuana does and they can have longer lasting effects – there is no ceiling of toxic ingestion. Bath salts work by increasing levels of monoamines in the spaces between the neurons – especially dopamine. This means that dopamine sticks around longer and binds to more receptors on adjacent neurons. In normal levels, dopamine helps regulate sleep, wake, reward, mood, attention, memory, learning, and sexual satisfaction. However, high levels of dopamine can create all sorts of crazy, not to mention harmful, side effects.
Patients who were administered to the ER under the influence of bath salts and synthetic marijuana experience many of the same symptoms: Paranoia, seizures, rapid heart rate, increase blood pressure, delirium, agitation, hallucinations, delusions, and psychosis. However, the most disturbing effects of these drugs are the emergence of zombie like behaviors including cannibalism, suicidal ideation, and extreme violence towards people and animals. Because of the recent increase in these drugs, many long-term side effects are not known and have not been studied (and potential addictive qualities of these drugs are hard to determine).
This blog serves as a warning to anyone who is using these drugs or knows of anyone using them. Please, think twice (or more!) if you are interested in using them.
Jerry, J., Collins, G., Streem, D. 2012. Synthetic legal intoxicating drugs: The emerging ‘incense’ and ‘bath salt’ phenomenon. Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine. 79:4
Penders, T.M. 2012. How to recognize a patient who’s high on “bath salts”. The Journal of Family Practice. 61:4