Taipei, June 26 (CNA) The use of an emerging drug sold under the deceptive name of "bath salts" has been on the rise in Taiwan, with its effects linked to unconsciousness and even death, a toxicologist said Tuesday.
"Bath salts," a name used to disguise the illegal substance as a benign household product, is made of three major chemicals-- Methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV), methylone, and mephedrone, said Yang Chen-chang, a toxicologist at Taipei Veterans General Hospital.
The drug has been in the news recently in the United States since a bizarre incident in which Rudy Eugene, 31, was fatally shot by Miami police after he was found chewing another man's face.
Eugene, dubbed the "cannibal man," is believed to have been high on the "bath salts" drug at the time.
Yang said these types of new drugs are frequently mixed with different substances by dealers, who often give the drugs trendy names as a way to mislead users into thinking that the substance is not illegal.
Several incidents have indicated that Taiwan is now no more than one or two years behind other countries in terms of drug abuse, the toxicologist said.
Methylone, one of the substances in the "bath salts" drug, was first found to be illegally used in the Netherlands in 2004 and has now become a street drug in Taiwan, Yang said.
Three victims of sexual assault sent to the Taipei Veterans General Hospital were found to have traces of methylone in their systems, Yang said.
In addition, a 30-year-old AIDS patient who was found unconscious and was taken to the hospital was diagnosed as having taken methylone, Yang said.
In another incident, a middle-aged man was rushed to the hospital's emergency room after developing numbness in the limbs and muscle stiffness.
A urine test showed that the man had taken MDPV, one of the three ingredients of "bath salts", Yang said.
His case was the first confirmed use of the the drug in Taiwan since it appeared in the country in Sept. 2011, said Tsai Wen-ying, a section chief at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) under the Department of Health.
More and more MDPV abuse cases have been recorded in the past two to three years, with many users taking the drug along with several other illegal substances, Tsai said.
MDPV is not listed as a controlled drug in Taiwan but the other two major ingredients of "bath salts" are listed as class three regulated substances.
Mephedrone was listed in 2009 and methylone in April this year, according to the FDA website.
(By Chen Ching-fang and Ann Chen)