Monday, 24 January 2011

Bad bath and beyond

We all have different ways of unwinding after a stressful day. Some people drink until they sound like Amy Winehouse accepting a Grammy. Others prefer to go clubbing for a class-A kind of night. Me, I like to soak in the bath.

I admit that this might make me sound like my life is about as racy as an omnibus of Larkrise to Candleford, but I don't care. Give me bubbles, a glass of wine and about half an hour, and the pressures of the day float away, like so many dead skin cells.

I can't be alone in this, since supermarket shelves are laden with all kinds of potions, lotions and unctions designed to transform floating around in your own detritus into a blissful spa-like experience. There are even whole stores dedicated to enhancing our bathtime. We've all turned the corner in a shopping mall, only to walk face-first into a wall of overbearing fragrance, billowing out of LUSH like smoke from a burning pile of leaves.

Personally, I've never felt much benefit from the various Radox treatments that I diligently pour into the bathtub. But maybe I've just been doing it wrong all these years.

Instead of tipping bath salts into the running water, I should have been freebasing them. Apparently it's all the rage in the States, even if it does have some alarming side effects. Finding himself less than satiated by more traditional narcotics, such as heroin and crack, Mississippi native Neil Brown got high on bath salts instead - only to suffer a series of terrifying hallucinations that made him take a skinning knife to his face and stomach. The worst I've ever done is try to give myself a bubblebath mohican.

Switching from the medicine cabinet to the bathroom cabinet, resourceful junkies are snorting, injecting and smoking powders with names like Ivory Wave, Red Dove and Vanilla Sky. And since a pack can be picked up for less than $20, they're even bagging a bargain with their burgeoning new habit.

The authorities should have seen it coming, since the bath powders contain legally available stimulants such as mephedrone and methylenedioxypyrovalerone, also found in plant food. But now, with 125 calls to Louisiana's Poison Centre in the last quarter of 2010, the pressure's on to ban the products before it becomes a full-scale epidemic.

Dr Mark Ryan told reporters: "MDPV and mephedrone are made in a lab, and they aren't regulated because they're not marketed for human consumption. The stimulants affect neurotransmitters in the brain. It causes intense cravings for it. They'll binge on it three or four days before they show up in an ER. Even though it's a horrible trip, they want to do it again and again." 

The one upside is that heavy users should at least be easy to spot, with silkily clean hair and pruned finger-tips. And just think how much harder it would have been for Whitney's sister-in-law to sell those pictures of her and Bobby's druggy bathroom, if all they showed were a series of decorative glass bowls. 

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