CHICAGO (CBS) -- A dangerous club drug is pushing getting high to a whole new level.
The drug is known innocuously as "bath salts," but as CBS 2's Pamela Jones reports, it's actually a cocktail of chemicals that's making people sick.
And it's on store shelves, legally for sale, in many Chicago neighborhoods. CBS 2 walked into smoke shops and convenience stores all over the area, and "bath salts" were right behind the counter.
They come with names such as "Ricky Bobby," "White Lady" and "TranQuility."
The packaging presents the drugs as actual bath salts to soothe your body.
"Ricky Bobby" is labeled as a "Himalayan Bath Formula" that is "rich in health-inducing minerals that include magnesium, calcium, sodium and potassium." The label directs you to add the substance to "your relaxing warm water bath."
The labels even say the "bath salts" are not intended for human consumption. But purchasers are not using them in their bathwater.
"It's sold as something that looks like it's over the counter, and people tend to believe it's safe," said Arthur Kubic of the Illinois Poison Control Center. "But we're actually seeing some pretty significant side effects to taking this."
"Bath salts" often contain powerful stimulants such as mephedrone and methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV), neither of which have a history of being used as bath products.
So people are smoking the substance, even snorting lines of it to get high. And they're ending up out of control.
They suffer from "elevated heart rate, elevated blood pressure; very agitated, very confused patients," Kubic said.
Just over the past few weeks, the Illinois Poison Control Center has seen a dramatic increase in the number of frantic calls reporting bath salt poisonings. Kubic said the agency has received more calls so far this year than over all of 2010.
"To us, that shows the prevalence is increasing," he said.
CBS 2 went with community activist Dawn Valenti and the group No Guns, No Violence, to help pinpoint where the salts are sold.
It turned out some smoke shops even had the chemicals marketed as "plant food," with methamphetamine mentioned on the label.
The activists want Illinois and Indiana to join the list of states racing to ban the potent powder.
"Twenty-five dollars for 500 milligrams – what's the purpose of putting it in the bathtub?" Valenti said. "It's used for other stuff, and kids are getting a hold of it."
A string of states are considering bills to ban bath salts, including Illinois, where state Sen. Jacqueline Y. Collins (D-Chicago) is proposing legislation.
The Illinois Poison Control Center says the small packaging size is a key to parents – you don't want this stuff in your house.
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