Bath salts, intended for a soak in the tub, are being used as a hallucinogenic drug, police said.
"We are seeing an epidemic of this," says Christina Matts, emergency room doctor at Northridge Hospital Medical Center.
An ingredient in some of the bath salt products is a synthetic drug that can have a powerful, violent effect on those who inhale it.
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"It causes aggressive agitation, paranoia, hallucinations," Matts said.
The salts, when ingested, can have an effect similar to LSD.
"Completely illicitly manufactured," said Det. Robert Holcomb with LAPD Devonshire station narcotics division. "You never know what you are getting; very dangerous."
Bath salts have been blamed in connection with a number of sensational and violent crimes. Police in Miami said a suspect under the influence of bath salts attacked a homeless man, taking bites from the man's face.
"They are becoming more and more of an issue in the SoCal area," Holcomb said.
He said the drugs are showing up in local smoke shops, sold in small packets with names like "Cloud 9" or "Zoom."
"It's almost comical in the head shops here, selling you half a gram for $25. I don't know what kind of bath you are going to get out of that,” he said.
Selling or buying the packets of synthetic bath salts, which are widely available, is a misdemeanor offense.
"It first takes off as a synthetic cocaine," Holcomb said. "Everything is fine and then reality hit for stories of an individual who chewed the face of another."