While cannabis is becoming more widely accepted as a safe and beneficial substance, the use of newer and more extreme psychoactive drugs has also grown more rampant. One of the primary obstacles for dealing with “bath salts” (aka "Flakka") and other psychoactive substances is the inability to fully test and study them.
Currently, information on the use of bath salts is limited to data gathered from seizures and poisonings. Additionally, most people consuming these psychoactive drugs are unaware that they’re even under the influence. These substances has become a common ingredient cut into ecstasy and even “molly,” making it difficult to gauge how often they’re used.
But NYU researchers have developed a testing method to provide clarity to this surfacing epidemic. The group tested the method of “gate” questions, simply posing a yes or no question to the participant about whether or not they’ve taken a particular substance from a list of drugs. The technique is regularly used in health surveys on drug use, but these test typically don’t ask about hundreds of newly developed drugs.
The research team observed 1,048 individuals attending EDM dance parties around New York City, some of which were asked about their drug uses with the gate questions. When asked about bath salts, only one out of ten respondents claimed they didn’t use the substance, later admitted to using one or more drugs from the same class.
According to the data, reported use was more prevalent when the gate question use of psychoactive substances like DOx, stimulants like 4-FA, and certain psychedelics like LSZ. The findings suggest that participants pay more attention and feel less burden about what they use when actually presented with the actual list of drugs, leading to more accurate answers.
“There are a lot of people using drugs such as methylone in the EDM scene, but many users are unaware that methylone is a ‘bath salt’. It seems that some people didn’t pay attention to the list of drugs that are considered ‘bath salts’ and simply checked off ‘no’ to use,” said Dr. Joseph Palamar, a PhD at the New York University Rory Meyers College of Nursing’s Center for Drug Use and HIV Research (NYU CDUHR).
The study, entitled “Assessing Self-Reported Use of New Psychoactive Substances: The Impact of Gate Questions,” was recently published in The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse.