By Jessica Thomas
The infamous case of Rudy Eugene chewing off a homeless guy’s face went global this May. Now, according to a recent CNN U.S. news report, toxicologists only identified marijuana in his body during his autopsy. Miami-Dade police had suspected that the man was using a synthetic drug called “bath salts”.
The federal government’s harsh view on drugs has given both substance users and abusers ways to get around the ban by creating products which can mimic many illegal substances' affects. According to The Office of National Drug Policy, synthetic marijuana and bath salts are often sold under “herbal incense” and “plant food”. Incidentally, they are also labeled “not for human consumption” to deter FDA regulation.
Much of the synthetic substance usage is blamed on marijuana prohibition and the “War on Drugs". A 2007 article in Science Daily states that a “chemical component of the marijuana plant could prevent the onset of pain associated with drugs used in chemo therapy, particularly in breast cancer patients”. Medicinal benefits linked to marijuana are widely publicized, compelling law abiding citizen to seek homeopathic alternatives to the substance. And while cannabis has often been credited as a gateway drug in many articles and studies, ScienceBlog.com reports there is a lack of evidence that marijuana leads to substance abuse.
Despite the many benefits of cannabis usage, some adverse effects can occur if consumed in large quantities. Many smokers have often complained of “freaking out” or being paranoid while intoxicated. The British Journal of Psychiatry declares that large doses of marijuana can cause organic psychosis. This psychosis can remain once marijuana use is discontinued. And in some cases, cannabis has aggravated underlying psychological problems.
Eugene’s rampant act of cannibalism astounded many. According to WPTV.com many scientific experts doubt the toxicologist's report. It is still suspected that “bath salts” were responsible for Eugene’s actions. Dr. Barry Logan, one of America’s top toxicologists was skeptical about the report as he confirmed that there are over 100 chemical compounds found in the synthetic drug and the labs only tested 17-40 of the compounds. It doesn’t cover all of them.
So what made Rudy Eugene devour the homeless man’s face and act so rabid?
Bath salts and synthetic marijuana are considered designer drugs. The psychoactive elements in bath salts are chemicals called MDPV (also known as 3,4-Methylenedioxypyrovalerone), mephedrone, pyrovalerone, and methylone. Melanie Haiken of Forbes.com asserts that many other ingredients go into bath salts and that many seized bath salts have been found to contain “high levels of caffeine”.
Mephredone and MDVP have been illegal in the U.S. since 2010, but a recent article in thedailybeast.com states that “manufacturers try to avoid prosecution by slightly modifying the compounds to make them technically legal.” The compounds can vary by batch which can possibly be difficult to track in drug tests or toxicology reports.
Bath salts have been compared to methamphetamine, PCP, and cocaine. The active ingredients in the substance mimic a chemical in the East African hallucinogenic plant called Khat which is a controlled or illegal substance in most countries. While the World Health Organization doesn’t particularly consider khat an addictive substance, a recent report stated that over 20% of Yemeni children under twelve have become addicted to chewing the bitter stems of the plant.
Bath salt incidences have been popping up more recently as well. In the New York Daily News, Carla Murphy of Altoona, PA was reported to have assaulted police while under the influence of bath salts. Another from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reveals a 21 year old man was arrested after attacking police and devouring his own feces. Most of the reports linked to bath salts involve cannibalism or nudity, and erratic behavior.
According to the Huffington Post, bath salts have been claimed to turn people into “zombies”. Rumors grew so rampant recently that the CDC officially released a report that “zombies do not exist.”
Synthetic drugs seem to have more adverse effects than both alcohol and marijuana combined. A story from WebProNews.com states a Texas man devoured his family dog after smoking synthetic marijuana.
Members of the Global Commission on Drug Policy have suggested that countries decriminalize drugs and its sales. In 2001, Portugal did this and between the years 2001 and 2006 illegal drug use amongst teens and rates of HIV infections decreased while drug addiction treatment doubled according to Time Magazine. And the New York Times claims 'The War on Drugs' has been failing due to the overzealous policies that federal governments have enforced.