Published Date Written by David CarkhuffThe synthetic hallucinogenic drug, known as bath salts, has been linked to a string of serious infections that left the users hospitalized, the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported.
The agency is investigating a cluster of invasive "Group A" Streptococcal infections in patients who have reported a history of injecting bath salts. Four cases have been reported among persons ages 23-37, two of which resulted in Streptococcal Toxic Shock Syndrome, which can cause rapid drop in blood pressure and organ failure.
"It can be very dangerous because it can cause infections of your heart and infections of your bloodstream," said
Dr. Sheila G. Pinette, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
One case involved necrotizing fasciitis, a rapidly progressive disease which destroys muscles, fat and skin tissue.
"It becomes an open sore ... it is a rapidly progressing infection," Pinette said.
All four cases stemmed from the Maine counties of Aroostook and Penobscot, the agency reported.
"It's very serious if you get a strep infection," Pinette said, noting, "Our major concern is to try and discourage this type of drug use."
Approximately a quarter of patients with necrotizing fasciitis and more than 35 percent with Streptococcal Toxic Shock Syndrome die, the center reported.
Bath salts have grabbed headlines in the past two years. The American Association of Poison Control Centers reported just over 300 cases of bath salts intoxication in 2010, but over 6,000 through the end of 2011. The center, which manages poisonings for Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont, received over 200 reports of bath salts intoxication through 2011, more than 150 of which occurred in Maine, most all during 2011, according to its website (www.nnepc.org).
Bath salts are typically snorted, like cocaine, and can be smoked in pipes or on cigarettes, but other users shoot it intravenously, according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers.
"Bath salts are the drug of choice right now," Pinette said.
"It's one of those new, novel drugs that are out there," she said.
All cases of suspected invasive GAS and STSS should be reported by phone to the Maine CDC at 1-800-821-5821.