NEW YORK (Reuters) - Two drugs that produce a "meth-like" high and are being sold under the guise of "bath salts" would be banned as federally controlled substances under a bill unveiled by U.S. Senator Charles Schumer of New York.
"These so-called bath salts contain ingredients that are nothing more than legally sanctioned narcotics, and they are being sold cheaply to all comers, with no questions asked, at store counters around the country," said Schumer, a Democrat.
Schumer said he will introduce a bill to outlaw the two synthetic drugs -- mephedrone and methylenedioxypyrovalerone, or MDPV. The drugs come in powder and tablet form and are ingested by snorting, injection, smoking and, less often, by use of an atomizer.
Users experience an intense high, euphoria, extreme energy, hallucinations, insomnia and are easily provoked to anger, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration, which is currently investigating the drugs.
They have emerged as legal alternatives to cocaine and methamphetamines, and one or both have already been banned in the European Union, Australia, Canada, and Israel. In the United States, Florida, Louisiana and North Dakota have all recently banned the substances.
"The longer we wait to ban the substance, the greater risk we put our kids in," Schumer said.
Media reports over the last year describe the drugs as becoming increasingly popular, particularly among young people attending nightclubs, although the actual number of individuals using the drugs is unknown.
"These products are readily available at convenience stores, discount tobacco outlets, gas stations, pawnshops, tattoo parlors, truck stops and other locations," said an alert issued by the DEA.
"Prices range from $25 to $50 per 50-milligram packet," the DEA alert said.
The European Union banned mephedrone in December, saying the drug was directly linked to the deaths of two people, and may have been tied to 37 other cases of death.
The European Union's report said there was limited scientific evidence on the effects of the drug -- believed to be mostly manufactured in Asia before being packaged in the West -- but that there was sufficient evidence of its health risks to support a ban.
Schumer has also asked the health commissioner of New York State, Nirav Shah, to ban the two substances.
Reporting by Jonathan Allen; Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Jerry Norton