LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Last night, KCAL9's Sharon Tay introduced viewers to Hanna, a 21-year-old ballerina whose life was nearly destroyed by the horrific drug known as "bath salts."
The drug literally had her tearing her skin off.
Tonight, Tay examines what this drug can do to others. Many people have exhibited wild, disturbing behavior -- including possible cannibalism.
Tay reports there are continued efforts to introduce a ban on the synthetic drugs in California.
Jeff Voshall, of American Addiction Counselors, says the drug is simply bad news. "It's known for causing psychotic snaps. There are violent behaviors, agitation, high levels of anxiety and paranoia.
He adds, "If you were to take meth, PCP, combined those together with the hallucinogenic and stimulant properties, it's pretty much what we're up against."
The consequences, as several high profile cases point out, can be deadly.
Rudy Eugene, the man called the Causeway Cannibal, was suspected of being high on bath salts when he chewed off and ate his victim's face.
Police believe Deutsche Bank executive Brian Mulligan was high on bath salts before his deadly confrontation occurred with the LAPD.
"Sons of Anarchy" actor Johnny Lewis was suspected of being high on "Smiles," a drug similar to bath salts, when he killed his landlord before committing suicide in Los Feliz last month.
Experts say these drugs are highly addictive and they make the user feel superhuman.
Like Hanna, who believed she could fly, users believe said one expert, "They feel like they can see better than average people. Hear better. To the point they see things we don't. They hear things that we don't."
The side effects are dark and the psychosis lingers. Even after the drug wears off.
The symptoms? An elevated heart rate, constant sweating and the user is always wide awake.
Voshall explains, "Most people who use it describe it as tormented ... or terrifying."
Lawyer Phil Greer has seen the drug decimate lives. "We're not talking about what you buy at Bed, Bath & Beyond or one of these nice places. We're talking about designer drugs that are given a name that looks innocent so that they can be sold over the counter without any repercussions."
They're sold under a variety of names on line, or at smoke shops. Even convenience stores. Voshall calls the drugs ready availability "a huge problem in southern California."
And getting high comes with a price.
The California Poison Control Center has received literally hundreds of calls (243 between Jan. 2011 and March 2012) in the last year about bath salts alone. Ninety-five percent of those calls ended up with users having to visit an ER.
Voshall says, "Designer drugs are pretty much the new epidemic."
The LA County Health Department has issued an official warning against the use of bath salts citing that they "can cause liver and kidney failure, suicidal tendencies, seizures and even death."
In California, the sale of bath salts is a crime ... but possession is not. Some cities have passed laws making it illegal to possess designer drugs.
And research chemicals used to make the drugs are also still readily available on the open market.
The chemicals can be found in plant food and window cleaner. Anyone can purchase these chemicals on line.
Experts say getting and using designer drugs is like playing Russian Roulette.
Legal expert Greer says, "They'll get it shipped to wherever they want it shipped. They'll take the chemical and use it with other chemicals. They will cut it with other drugs. There is no control. So you have no idea what you're getting."
Once they put the "Not For Human Consumption" label on the drugs, they are allowed to be sold, says Greer.
And who puts the labels on the packages? "The dealers," says Greer.
Greer suggests creating some sort of certification process to keep the chemicals out of the hands of people who don't have legit reasons to use them.
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