Emergency room physicians have seen a major increase in the number of people abusing the drug known as "bath salts," Hendrick Medical Center said Thursday.
ER physician Henry Higgins said the problem was nonexistent six months ago. But now the hospital sees serious cases one to two times a day.
"People come in very, very paranoid. They're very anxious," Higgins said. "They look absolutely miserable."
He said these patients are hard to handle because the drug's side effects include intense hallucinations and even aggressive, violent behavior.
"It's very much like somebody that's overdosing on cocaine, PCP and even methamphetamine," Higgins said.
Doctors said the drug could also have lasting, psychological consequences--even for one time users.
Another intimidating factor: Physicians do not yet know everything the drug is capable of.
"It takes a normal person and turns them into a lunatic," Higgins said. "The person is a potential threat to everybody."
The drug's name is misleading because it is not what you would use in your bathtub. It is a combination of amphetamine-like chemicals that look like bathtub salts.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, it is difficult to tell what drugs are used in the making of bath salts.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration issued an emergency one year ban on Oct. 21, 2011 on the most commonly used chemicals.
The federal government is currently studying whether the ban will be made permanent.