Bath Salts and Zombies: A Cautionary Tale

June 1, 2012
By Melissa Bynes Brooks

Public sentiment and perspectives regarding the recent incident of a zombie gone wild is a cautionary tale that brought to surface, the anxieties and potentially uncontrollable consequences of a turbulent society.

In fact, because of the infatuation and cult following of zombies in pop culture, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began a blog titled, “Preparedness 101: Zombie Apocalypse.” CDC officials say it’s all about emergency preparation. The campaign stemmed from concerns of radiation fears following the earthquake and tsunami that rocked Japan last year.

CDC spokesman Dave Daigle told that someone had asked CDC officials if zombies would be a concern due to radiation fears in Japan and traffic spiked following that mention. “It’s kind of a tongue-in-cheek campaign,” Daigle said. “We were talking about hurricane preparedness and someone bemoaned that we kept putting out the same messages.”

Are we going down a “Walking Dead” path?

In an overwhelming unstable global economy, concerns are paramount as more and more people panic financially as a result of being increasingly poor, hungry, homeless, and jobless. People around the world are becoming angrier and less trusting of the establishment. Ruling governments are viewed as profiting economically from cheap labor and guaranteed free markets while the less fortunate bear the costs and tax burdens. Worsening circumstances have given rise to the Tea Party, Arab Spring, and Occupy Wall Street movements.

Throw in the mix, additional threats related to terrorist attacks, weapons of mass destruction, bioterrorism, nuclear proliferation, lethal disease pandemics, and cyber warfare.

So it’s no coincidence that at first glance, the unthinkable was considered when news reports went viral about the naked man in Miami, Florida last week, who chewed off the face of another man in a zombie-like attack. The incident was stopped only after a police officer shot the attacker several times, killing him. Unknown at the time, the “zombie” was acting under the influence of bath salts.

Doctors and clinicians at U.S. Poison centers are increasingly concerned about products marketed as bath salts that are causing increased blood pressure, increased heart rate, agitation, hallucinations, extreme paranoia and delusions.

As of April 30, 2012, there have been 1,007 closed human exposures calls to poison centers about exposures to bath salts.

Bath salts are laced with a dangerous chemical which elicits extreme adverse events and side effects in people who use them to get high. The products are believed to contain Methylenedioxypyrovalerone, or MPDV, a chemical that is not approved for medical use in the United States. These substances are also sold as insect repellants or plant fertilizers.

The products have been sold on the Internet and, in some states, are being sold at gas stations and head shops. They’re known by a variety of names, including “Red Dove,” “Blue Silk,” “Zoom,” “Bloom,” “Cloud Nine,” “Ocean Snow,” “Lunar Wave,” “Vanilla Sky,” “Ivory Wave,” “White Lightning,” “Scarface” and “Hurricane Charlie.”

They can cause a person to become psychotic.

“We are incredibly concerned about the extreme paranoia being reported by people who are taking these drugs,” said Mark Ryan back in 2010, director of the Louisiana Poison Center. He said then, the products were being touted as cocaine substitutes and caused intense cravings akin to methamphetamine use. He worried that the paranoia could cause those experimenting with the drugs to harm themselves and others. Ryan said most patients calling poison centers have snorted the substances. In at least one case, he said, a person injected the substance into his veins.

Henry A. Spiller, director of the Kentucky Regional Poison Center, said the patients his center has treated “are having a break with reality.”
“They have completely lost it,” he said.

This exact thought was probably shared by many upon first hearing the news about the zombie attack before becoming aware and learning more about bath salts.
Only in a different framework, “Have things really gotten so bad that people are losing their minds and eating people now?”

Melissa Bynes Brooks is the editor of BrooksSleepReview.
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Follow on Twitter @Mlbbrooks


American Association of Poison Control Centers (2012). Retrieved June 1, 2012, from

Bath Salts Data (2012) Retrieved May 31, 2012, from

CNN (2012). Reports: Miami ‘Zombie’ Attacker may have been using ‘Bath Salts.’ Retrieved May 31, from

Drezner, D. W., Professor of International Politics, Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University (2011). Theories of International Politics and Zombies. Princeton: New Jersey. Princeton University Press.

Miller, J. R., Fox News (2011). CDC Warns Public to Prepare for ‘Zombie Apocalypse’. Retrieved May 31, 2012, from

O’Connor, T. (2011). “Superterrorism,” MegaLinks in Criminal Justice. Retrieved June 1, 2012, from

Wehrman, J. (2010). U.S. Poison Centers Raise Alarm about Toxic Substance Marketed as Bath Salts. Retrieved June 1, from