Scientists develop new method for detecting illegal ‘bath salts’ drugs

A doctor explains the dangerous effects of the drugs known as “bath salts”.

Scientists have developed a new method for identifying illegal “bath salts”, synthetic drugs recently banned in the United States.

Similar to amphetamines, users experience an initial euphoria followed by terrifying hallucinations, paranoia, depression. The drugs also cause violent outbursts, leading to hospitalization and in some cases suicides.

In 2012, the PBS NewsHour reported on the drug’s rise in the United States and what they do to the brain. However, they are still sold disguised as innocuous household products, like plant food, toilet bowl cleaner and stain remover.

To find the drugs, law enforcement needs laboratories to test for the drugs. The suggested technique of using mercury to test for the drugs was seen as impractical because of mercury’s toxicity.

Chemists Craig E. Banks and Oliver Sutcliffe of Manchester Metropolitan University are developing a new, portable method to detect the drugs. Using a mercury-free electrode, they tested their new method on drugs purchased on the internet. Their results are described in the journal Analytical Chemistry, published by the American Chemistry Society.