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Bath Salts Killed Her Son, Lake Elsinore Mom Says

“I don’t want to see anymore kids die from this.”

EDITOR'S NOTE: On May 26 in Miami, a naked, seemingly deranged man attacked another man, biting off parts of his face. Police shot and killed the attacker, identified as 31-year old Rudy Eugene. Armando Aguilar, president of the Miami Fraternal Order of Police, suspects that the attacker was under the influence of drugs known as "bath salts."

Below is a story out of Lake Elsinore that Patch published on January 30. It highlights the dangers of a drug that made headlines around the world this past weekend:

Lake Elsinore resident Sharon Guffey knew something was really wrong with her son, but she couldn't know he would commit suicide by hanging himself from a Murrieta bridge.

In early November 2010, Gregory Thomas’s lifeless body was found hanging off a quiet bridge on Adams Avenue, near the western edge of Murrieta’s industrial area.

The 34-year-old was estranged from his wife and their two little girls. His death was ruled a suicide, caused by many months of using a stimulant that's available at local stores, his mother said.

“My son committed suicide after purchasing bath salts from our local smoke shop,” Guffey said. “I went to the police department and there is nothing they can do about it.”

"Bath salts" are synthetic stimulants that are sometimes also sold under the guise of “plant food.” They often come from European manufacturers and are marketed under various names such as “Ivory Wave,” “Purple Wave,” “Vanilla Sky,” and “Bliss,” according to Special Agent Sarah Pullen of the Drug Enforcement Administration.

The “high” that bath salt users get is said to mimic that of cocaine, LSD, Ecstasy, and/or methamphetamine, Pullen explained. Snorting, shooting, smoking and ingesting are the ways users get high on bath salts. Guffey said her son snorted.

For around $25, anyone over 18 years of age  -- 21 in some stores -- can purchase about a gram of the beige-colored powder from retailers that sell it. What’s actually in these products, however, is pretty much a mystery.

On Oct. 21, 2011, the DEA exercised its emergency scheduling authority to control the three synthetic stimulants most commonly found in bath salts: Mephedrone, Methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV), and Methylone.

“If you’re caught selling a product that contains any one of these, you are violating the law,” Pullen explained.

To avoid legal trouble, however, manufacturers have become “very clever,” Pullen said.

“They are using other stimulants in their products and, unless a chemist tests them, it’s unknown what’s really in them,” she said. “It’s very difficult to keep up with all the products out there.”

A trip to two local smoke shops revealed that bath salts are readily available in town, and they are “selling like hot cakes,” said one Lake Elsinore store clerk.

“Bath salts became very popular very quickly. Even convenience stores are selling them," Pullen said

The biggest reason for the DEA's emergency action is the "violent behavior" often seen in users, Pullen explained.

“Someone high on bath salts is a threat to public safety,” she said.

Guffey can attest to that. Before her son died, his stepfather took him to urgent care at Inland Valley Medical Center. Shortly after Thomas arrived, there was pandemonium and the hospital went into lockdown, she said.

The effect of bath salts on her son was devastating. They destroyed his marriage, cost him his job, and ultimately his life, Guffey said.

“He was hearing voices and was paranoid when he was on them. They literally ate his brain away,” she said. “He was slowly poisoning himself. He didn’t sleep, he didn’t eat. His eyes looked different and his skin color changed.”

After his brief stay at Inland Valley Medical Center, Thomas was transferred to Better Tomorrow, a residential drug rehab center in Murrieta. Once there, he told his mother that he wanted to kill himself – the voices in his head and his wrecked life had become unbearable. True to his word, he slipped out of Better Tomorrow on a Saturday night, according to his mother, and his body was found just days later, less than a mile from the treatment center. Calls to Better Tomorrow were not returned.

“I tried to get him off it [the bath salts], but he was addicted,” Guffey said. “I know he’s in a better place now.”

But Guffey's tragic experience may not mean much to bath salts manufacturers who continue to profit -- legally -- off their products.

Sgt. Stephen Mike of the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department works narcotics for all of Southwest Riverside and said bath salts are sold locally, but law enforcement has no authority unless someone is selling products that contain the banned stimulants.

The sergeant said he was not familiar with the Thomas case (the suicide occurred within Murrieta Police Department's jurisdiction), and added that he has not received complaints about bath salts locally.

At the two stores Patch visited, one of the products being marketed was clearly labeled “Does Not Contain Mephedrone, MDPV or Methylone.” The other products were labeled with print too small to read.

“A lot of manufacturers have labeled their products to say that they don’t contain the banned stimulants,” Pullen explained. “But again, unless they are tested, no one knows for certain.”

Even if they are tested, the DEA’s emergency action expires this October.

“The DEA can ask for a six-month extension, but after that there needs to be legislative action, otherwise the three substances will be removed from the Schedule I list,” Pullen said.

Schedule I is the federal government’s most restrictive drug category under the Controlled Substances Act.

“Schedule I status is reserved for those substances with a high potential for abuse, no currently accepted use for treatment in the United States and a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug under medical supervision,” according to the DEA. All Schedule I drugs are illegal under federal law.

Guffey said she is telling her story now because she wants to see bath salts – in all their forms – made illegal.

“I don’t want to see anymore kids die from this.”

Cookie mom May 31, 2012 at 02:10 AM
They need to not sale that stuff it could save someone life its things like this that causes young kids to get started on drugs at a early drugs if they know that is killy people they need to remove it from the shelfs and from the stores or the owners of the store should be closed down or arrested and brought to justice thats how i feel about this md of lake elsinore
Edison Carter May 31, 2012 at 01:56 PM
No good can come of Bath Salts, but the problem doesn't go away by banning it. There are common home items that kids/people use to get high, computer duster, nutmeg, cold medicine, paint, freon, nitrous, glue, or if none of those are available, one person presses on the chest of another while holding their breath, it's always going to be something.
Diana May 31, 2012 at 05:20 PM
For God's sake if you want to get high that bad have a couple of glasses of wine or a beer at least that high won't kill you. So sad that our kids experiment with these deadly chemicals, they should be loving life and having fun, not trying to get high.
Julie Savage Wysocki May 31, 2012 at 05:45 PM
My fiance died May 6, 2011 from his addiction to bath salts. He was 51 years old. He had even started going to NA meetings to try and get a handle on his addiction. Too many people have access to, and are becoming addicted to bath salts. And it's killing them. But no one, even in the hospitals, seems to have heard of bath salts and the problems it's causing. I had to tell the nurses in ICU to Google "bath salts" because they had never heard of it! People who are meth users are buying and using bath salts because it won't show up in their probation or employment drug screens, and they get a very similar high to the ones they got using meth. But, they become very paranoid and halucinate. They do harm to themselves and sometimes others. The public, as well as the police, fire, and medical communities need to be educated and made more aware of the existance and effects of bath salts.
Steve May 31, 2012 at 07:09 PM
Bath salts is what the guy was on when he chewed off that homeless man's face and left only his goatee. Anybody selling that stuff should be liable for anything that happens with it.
Pam May 31, 2012 at 10:04 PM
I agree Steve... they should also be responsible for the 'fake' marijuana they sell. They don't even know what's in it! Julie, so sorry to hear about your loss. You sound very literate on this subject and have already taught me a few things! Bath Salts are made for soaking in people! Not ingesting, smoking or snorting or ... wait... most of the people that would 'do' bath salts won't be reading our comments here anyway.... sigh ... the irony.
Cookie mom June 01, 2012 at 08:20 AM
I agree with u steve 100%
PoorManzMaher June 01, 2012 at 11:15 AM
The root cause of why people want to "get high" needs to be examined. With a government bought and paid for by big moneyed interests that no longer represent them, these folks feel they have no representation any longer and therefore feel a disconnect or void and in creeps the need for relief of said feeling or "escapism". The way I got here was a link from an assahola Republican on Twitter calling the President and First Lady "niggers", any wonder why young (or older) folks feel no connection to this country any longer?
Miranda June 01, 2012 at 01:51 PM
I currently live in East Tennessee and they have recently voted and passed a ban on all "synthetic" drugs...including bath salts and fake weed. It might be just a county ordinance but something can be done if the people are vocal enough.
Pam June 01, 2012 at 06:29 PM
Just found this article... I am obviously uninformed... I thought they were talking about Epsom Salt and bath salts you buy at local stores. http://health.yahoo.net/experts/dayinhealth/miami-cannibal-attack-horrific-dangers-bath-salts-drug we all need to get the local smoke shops to stop selling these synthetic drugs~!
zombies!ewww June 04, 2012 at 08:07 AM
As a soldier in this apocalyptic zombie wars i find myself in awe.bathsalts?zombies?bathsalts/zombies?!?if the warning label says may cause hunger for flesh it might detour these druggies from that stuff.i think that they should lock up the guys sellin that stuff and use the money to legalize marijuana.thats what i think.yup.
Aaron June 04, 2012 at 09:38 PM
To Edison Carter: That is a terrible argument that stupid people always use. So you're saying it won't make any difference if we ban this drug because kids will get high in other ways anyways... I don't know about you but I'd be a bit more inclined to use something sold in a store and marketed as safe over huffing paint and computer duster. The, "it's always going to be something" argument can be true, but it really doesn't apply here.
C Rn June 05, 2012 at 01:51 PM
What the heck ever happened to personal responsibility???? Sure, bath salts are dangerous. Smart people dont take them. Perhaps if the government gave up it's ridiculous War on Drugs, these same people using bath salts could simply smoke a joint, eat, and go to sleep. I am a nurse and I can tell you no one has ever died from marijuana. Literally, no deaths linked ever, but thanks DEA for legal drugs like bath salts!
Liza Days June 05, 2012 at 03:50 PM
No one has ever died from Marijuana? How about the people who were killed in a car crashe caused by a person being high? Or the toddler that drowned because his babysitter was too high to remember to check on him? All drugs are harmful. Shame on you for trying to lessen the harmfulness of any of them.
whateversclever June 05, 2012 at 03:54 PM
No one has died from marijuana? Lol. The Mexico border is conveniently far enough away from you to say that I guess. The headless corpses and thousands of dead because of the cartels drug wars to count right?
Dave Mowers June 06, 2012 at 03:52 AM
Tell that to the forty nine headless bodies and their family members found recently at the border. While you are explaining it to those victims try having a talk with the eight people found burned alive in an S.U.V. last week in Texas or the estimated 11,000 children abducted, gang raped and ritually murdered by Cartel elites each year who pray to a skeletal version of Mary and sacrifice kids to Satan to protect their drugs shipments. Come back here when it is your nine year old daughter who has gone missing and was found raped to death by millionaire pot growers for fun.
Dave Mowers June 06, 2012 at 03:56 AM
Julie if your have credit card or debit card receipts for his purchases showing where he bought the bath salts you need to hire a lawyer and sue that business out of existence for wrongful death. You have a case and if more people took it upon themselves to fight these head shops and gas stations dealing these dangerous drugs you would see this issue ended quickly. Good luck to you and sorry for your loss.
Christine June 06, 2012 at 05:23 PM
I agree with Liza Days, Dave Mowers and whateversclever. I am horrified by this, and will be speaking with my son and the parents of his friends about this. I am sickened because someone always finds a way to create new drugs and it appears that the war on drugs will never be won.
Trina June 06, 2012 at 11:30 PM
I agree with C rn weed is not a harmful drug. I never n I will say it again I never heard anyone dying, or killing anyone off of weed. I smoke weed got to have it, it help me eat, help me sleep at night, n it keep me from getting a headache. And the man that killed the baby in the tub had pills in stuff in his system I beat them two along over powered the weed.
James June 07, 2012 at 02:53 PM
I will say that I Have snorted bath salts and they are fun while they last but the Come down is horrible. Your heart races and you have a lot of energy. Ive have the ones that said said the didn't have illegal stuff in them but, when your working 12 hours shifts in a machine shop and that's the only way you can stay up because red bulls don't work you have to make money. To pay bills. But marijuana doesn't kill people. People kill people. Actually that's on all drugs. If some one want to commit suicide for some reason. That's there free right to. THIS COUNTRY WAS BUILT ON FREEDOM!!! WHAT HAPPENED?!!!!
Brenda June 09, 2012 at 08:43 PM
Gosh I agree Diana :/ It is terrible times we live in where our children are that miserable to try and then get addicted to these things. The USA is a mess and it trickles on down to the adults, the children when we are loosing houses, jobs, having to move from place to place for jobs, or families seperated with a day or mom working a job elsewhere to provide. and it just keeps going around and around in viscious circle.
katie June 12, 2012 at 03:36 AM
I find that these companies should be charged for selling "bath salts" I'm from nova scotia, and I've only heard about it on June 1st 2012, before that I've never known what it was. The people that are taking it and think its funny, and going around killing inocent people, and animals are serious delusional. Smart people would not do such a thing. I hate all drugs in genereal it don't matter if its weed, I fine it highly discusting.
Martha L. Bridges June 12, 2012 at 01:08 PM
There has to be some personal responsibility exercised in all this... There are everyday produces on the shelves of super markets, local mom and pop stores, and big box warehouses - products which we need for everyday use to keep our homes, kitchens, clothes, kids and cars clean - that can be lethal if misused. The warning labels are right there on the containers, and the consumers have the obligation to read those warnings and handle the produces safely. If people are going to abuse themselves and these products by using them for unintended purposes, then they need to be held responsible for the outcome. Come on folks and face up to the facts. Our cars are not responsible for speeding and unsafe driving; the drivers are. The food manufacturers are not responsible for a huge portion of the population being obese; the individuals who indulge in overeating and consuming junk food are to blame. Reasonable, responsible people should not have their access to useful produces reduced or restricted simple because a few people want to indulge in stupid substance abuse.
donna coleman July 14, 2012 at 02:09 AM
yes at least marijuana is a natural plant it is no different than buying beer or whiskey the bath salts are chemical that are killing people, I had my son hospitalize to get him off of this stuff and then the girl that got him on this came back and again he is on it. I had to kick him out of our house. The government better step in or we will have a worse war on bathsalt drugs

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