Bath salts present a challenge for drug tests

A drug-testing company chief talks about his battle to keep pace with the ever-changing elements of the drugs

Topics: The Fix, Drugs, addiction, Science,

Bath salts present a challenge for drug tests
This article originally appeared on The Fix.

How do you test for a drug with an ever-changing chemical composition? That’s what Dr. Harry Leider, Chief Medical Officer of testing company Ameritox, is trying to figure out. His target? “Bath salts”—the drug type that made a big splash with the story of Florida’s“causeway cannibal.” (Although we’ve since learnt that the face-eater wasn’t on bath salts, the task remains tricky.) “Legal highs” are sold in little packets labeled “bath salts” or “plant food,” but don’t try to use it as either of those—the only active ingredients are synthetic cathinones, chemically synthesized drugs meant to mimic the effects of methamphetamine.
the fix
Testing (and making laws) for bath salts is a game of chemical cat-and-mouse. The problem is, according to Dr. Leider, that they aren’t that difficult to synthesize or modify for anyone who has some knowledge of chemistry, and these “street chemists” stay one step ahead of lawmakers and enforcers simple by shifting the elements in the compounds a little. Despite the challenge, Dr. Leider is fighting to keep bath salt detection on pace with street chemists’ modifications via a two-pronged approach: “We have a couple different methods—actually buy the substances and develop technology to detect them as they emerge, which is a hard thing to do,” he explains to The Fix, “and another way is our specialty lab where, with the size and scope of Ameritox, we test thousands of specimens a day from doctors.”

“It’s like a battle,” Dr. Leider tells us. But it’s a battle he thinks can be won with a “concerted effort on multiple levels”: the DEA, doctors and insurance companies. The DEA, he says, needs a faster way to outlaw drugs by class, rather than by substance. As of now the agency is behind Dr. Leider’s labs—Ameritox tests for eight different strains of bath salts, but the DEA has only declared three of them illegal. Doctors must also be trained to identify patients suffering from bath salts’ side effects and be able to report if there’s an outbreak in the area. And insurance companies must also be encouraged to foot the bill for drug screenings. Last, but not least, is educating the public about the dangers of bath salts. “It’s a real dangerous category of drugs—potency varies from packet to packet and it’s not regulated in any way,” says Dr. Leider. “Many people think because something is legal, it’s safer.”

You Might Also Like

More The Fix

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 13
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    DAYA  
    Young Daya has yet to become entirely jaded, but she has the character's trademark skeptical pout down pat. And with a piece-of-work mother like Aleida -- who oscillates between jealousy and scorn for her creatively gifted daughter, chucking out the artwork she brings home from summer camp -- who can blame her?

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    MORELLO   
    With her marriage to prison penpal Vince Muccio, Lorna finally got to wear the white veil she has fantasized about since childhood (even if it was made of toilet paper).

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    CINDY   
    Cindy's embrace of Judaism makes sense when we see her childhood, lived under the fist of a terrifying father who preached a fire-and-brimstone version of Christianity. As she put it: "I was raised in a church where I was told to believe and pray. And if I was bad, I’d go to hell."

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    CAPUTO   
    Joey Caputo has always tried to be a good guy, whether it's offering to fight a disabled wrestler at a high school wrestling event or giving up his musical ambitions to raise another man's child. But trying to be a nice guy never exactly worked out for him -- which might explain why he decides to take the selfish route in the Season 3 finale.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    BOO   
    In one of the season's more moving flashbacks, we see a young Boo -- who rejected the traditional trappings of femininity from a young age -- clashing with her mother over what to wear. Later, she makes the decision not to visit her mother on her deathbed if it means pretending to be something she's not. As she puts it, "I refuse to be invisible, Daddy. Not for you, not for Mom, not for anybody.”

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    SOSO
    We still don't know what landed Brooke Soso in the slammer, but a late-season flashback suggests that some seriously overbearing parenting may have been the impetus for her downward spiral.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    POUSSEY
    We already know a little about Poussey's relationship with her military father, but this season we saw a softer side of the spunky fan-favorite, who still pines for the loving mom that she lost too young.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    PENNSATUCKY
    Pennsatucky had something of a redemption arc this season, and glimpses of her childhood only serve to increase viewer sympathy for the character, whose mother forced her to chug Mountain Dew outside the Social Security Administration office and stripped her of her sexual agency before she was even old enough to comprehend it.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    CHANG
    This season, we got an intense look at the teenage life of one of Litchfield's most isolated and underexplored inmates. Rebuffed and scorned by her suitor at an arranged marriage, the young Chinese immigrant stored up a grudge, and ultimately exacted a merciless revenge.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    HEALY
    It's difficult to sympathize with the racist, misogynist CO Sam Healy, but the snippets we get of his childhood -- raised by a mentally ill mother, vomited on by a homeless man he mistakes for Jesus when he runs to the church for help -- certainly help us understand him better.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    NORMA
    This season, we learned a lot about one of Litchfield's biggest enigmas, as we saw the roots of Norma's silence (a childhood stutter) and the reason for her incarceration (killing the oppressive cult leader she followed for decades).

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    NICKI
    While Nicki's mother certainly isn't entirely to blame for her daughter's struggles with addiction, an early childhood flashback -- of an adorable young Nicki being rebuffed on Mother's Day -- certainly helps us understand the roots of Nicki's scarred psyche.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>