The county's top health officer warned today against the use of "bath salts," a synthetic drug that can cause severe and potentially fatal side effects.
"Bath salts are particularly dangerous in that not much is known about what goes into the drug and even less is known about what people are capable of while on this drug," cautioned Dr. Jonathan Fielding, director of the Department of Public Health.
"We do know that there are harmful risks to users, and there is an increased potential for others to be harmed if someone near them is high on this drug," he said.
The drug -- which has been gaining popularity in recent years -- can cause kidney and liver failure, seizures, increased suicide risk and even death, according to Fielding.
Other side effects include sweating, chest pain, rapid heart rate, hallucinations, violent behavior and mental illness. Symptoms of abuse can include lack of appetite, decreased need for sleep, self-mutilation and severe paranoia, Fielding said.
The drug, which also goes by the street names White Lightning, White Rush and Hurricane Charlie, is often sold in tobacco or smoke shops, packaged in small plastic bags, canisters or jars and may be labeled as "plant food" or "pond water cleaning." The illicit "bath salts" should not be confused with the cosmetic products sold in bath, beauty or drug stores for use in bath water. Those products are safe to use as directed.
More information on the drug may be found at http://www.drugfree.org/drug-guide/bath-salts.
Information on drug abuse prevention and control can be found at http://publichealth.lacounty.gov/sapc.