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British researchers are developing a new method to detect synthetic drugs known as “bath salts,” PBS NewsHour reports. The researchers say the method is low-cost, disposable and quick. It could someday be used in a handheld sensor to detect bath salts, the researchers explain in the journal Analytical Chemistry.
Although bath salts have been banned in the United States, they are still sold in some retail shops and online disguised as household products including stain remover, toilet bowl cleaner or plant food, the article notes.
Bath salts can be taken by mouth, inhaled or injected. Adverse effects of bath salts include heart and blood vessel problems, depression, suicidal thoughts, psychosis and death.
The suggested technique to test for bath salts uses mercury, which is toxic, the article notes. The new method uses a mercury-free electrode. It could be the basis for the first portable, onsite testing device for bath salts. The researchers tested their method on bath salts bought online. They reported the accuracy of their results matched that of established methods for identifying bath salts.
Tens of thousands of emergency room visits and several deaths have been attributed to bath salts, the researchers noted in a press release.