Dangerous chemicals used as drug ingredients needed banning

Published 2:04 pm Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune, guest editorial:/MS

Louisiana lawmakers took aim at dangerous chemicals — sold as bath salts — that have been sending people to emergency rooms with symptoms that include paranoia, hallucinations and suicidal thoughts.

Gov. Bobby Jindal outlawed the bath salts through an emergency rule that he issued in January. House Bill 12, which got final approval, finishes the job. It outlaws groups of ingredients used to make the bath salts and also bans chemicals that are used to manufacture synthetic marijuana.

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Targeting ingredients will help Louisiana stay ahead of drug designers. Last year, the Legislature had banned chemically laced herbs that provide a pot-like effect, but drug manufacturers came up with a new formulation to get around the prohibition. This approach should ensure that the banned substances stay banned.

House Bill 12 by Rep. Ricky Templet puts the toxic substances used to make the bath salts into the same class as cocaine and other dangerous drugs. That’s appropriate. People were using the substances, sold under names like “White Dove” and “Cloud Nine,” to experience a speed-like high. But the chemicals cause severe psychotic side effects and were linked to two deaths, one in St. Tammany Parish.

While so-called bath salts have caused problems across the country, Louisiana seemed to be the epicenter. Louisiana Poison Control received 165 calls from September of last year until January, when the emergency ban went into effect, and the calls to Louisiana’s poison hotline accounted for 57 percent of all such calls reported nationally.

The governor’s office was right to take quick action to meet this new threat, and the Louisiana Legislature’s passage of HB 12 ensures that these harmful substances should stay off store shelves for good.