The Real Victims of the Zombie Bath Salt Apocalypse

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It’s become a nearly unquestioned assumption in the annals of bizarre, violent crime: the weirder and more inhuman the assault, the more likely the perpetrator is to have been abusing the synthetic drug known as “bath salts”. Chew a guy’s face off? Bath salts! Throw your intestines at police? Bath salts! Bite a random stranger? Bath Salts!

But as it turns out, this hastily slapped-together hypothesis has more than a few holes. For one thing, the case that kicked off the whole zombie cannibal bath salt hysteria — in which 31-year-old Rudy Eugene chowed down on the face of homeless Miami man Ronald Poppo — turned out to be completely unrelated to the drug. Eugene was listed as having only marijuana in his system when he was killed by police after refusing to stop chewing on Poppo’s face.

(MORE: The Cannabis Cannibal? Miami Face-Eater Didn’t Take ‘Bath Salts’)

Second, for goodness sake, ‘bath salts’ is only a nickname. Sold legally in many states, the drug is primarily a variant of methylenedioxypyrovalerone, and has effects similar to those of crystal meth: agitation, hallucinations, high blood pressure. Except for the fact that they look like the soothing, scented crystals that you dissolve in your bathtub, they’re basically the opposite. And at least one bath salt company is politely asking to set the record straight.

“Any extra exposure that our industry can get is generally a good thing,” San Francisco Bath Salt Company president Lee Williamson said in a recent media statement attempting to distance his company from the ongoing bath salt hysteria.

(MORE: Miami Moves to Ban Bath Salts)

After all, recent reports on the dangers of bath salts haven’t exactly been scientific: the rumors were sparked when the Miami Fraternal Order of Police president suggested that the incident was similar to others they had seen involving bath salts (the bad kind). Such “bath salts” are also sold as “glass cleaner” or “plant food” – names that raise no suspicions, thereby allowing retailers to skirt obvious anti-drug laws. Sold in small packets, the stimulant drug can be inhaled or snorted – and is far cheaper than cocaine or ecstasy because it’s cooked in standard kitchens. A common chemical component of these designer drugs is mephedrone, a synthetic stimulant that is very hard to track and even to test for.

So now, Williamson and his company are trying to redraw the line between their product and the drug that’s gripped the nation. The industry has seen slumping demand since 2009, as consumers have cut down on luxury bath items, Headline News reports. But now that they have to contend with the drug abusers who want to rip faces off, it’s game time.

“I’m sure people are afraid of actual bath salts from the headlines and have not pulled the trigger because they are confused by the headlines, which is a shame because they have the opposite healing effects of this deadly drug with an unfortunate name,” Williamson told HLN.

To be clear: actual bath salts won’t turn you into a zombie. Considering how hard their manufacturers sell their soothing, relaxing capabilities, they’re more likely to turn you into a mummy.  And with President Obama expected to sign a federal ban on 28 new “bath salts” varieties, we can feel comfortable buying actual bath salts again. Light the lavender candle and cue the Sade, legitimate bath salt industry. We have a feeling a long soak will do you well.

MORE‘Bath Salts’: Evil Lurking at Your Corner Store