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Florida leads the nation in overdose deaths involving the synthetic 'bath salt' eutylone

MDMA, the primary ingredient in party drugs like ecstasy or molly, is what many people think they're taking when they overdose on eutylone, unaware the product is contaminated with the synthetic bath salt.
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MDMA, the primary ingredient in party drugs like ecstasy or molly, is what many people think they're taking when they overdose on eutylone, unaware the product is contaminated with the synthetic bath salt.

Florida is leading the nation in overdose deaths involving a synthetic drug called eutylone.

Supply of the psychoactive bath salt has increased dramatically in the U.S. in recent years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A report published this month found eutylone was detected nationally in fewer than 10 drug items like powders, capsules or tablets in early 2017. Last year, it was detected in 8,379.

Of the 343 overdose deaths the CDC recorded for 2020, 182 occurred in Florida, or about 53%. Maryland accounted for the second-highest number of deaths with 77.

Most people probably aren't seeking out the drug specifically, explained John Templeton, president and CEO of Footprints Beachside Recovery Center in Treasure Island.

Instead, eutylone is often mixed with other drugs so people don't realize they're taking it until it's too late.

"They're [health officials] finding a lot more of it in like MDMA, the ecstasy-type drugs, so there's just all sorts of toxic chemicals, and its just really, it's a deadly time to be using any sort of street drug right now," said Templeton.

The CDC found the powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl was also detected in more than 77% of eutylone-related deaths.

Templeton is encouraging people struggling with substance use to seek treatment.

"You know we see people everyday whose lives are drastically changed by these drugs and we just want to put out the alarm," he said.

According to the CDC, the United Nations Commission on Narcotics Drugs internationally scheduled eutylone. Enforcement is scheduled to begin in late November.

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Stephanie Colombini joined WUSF Public Media in December 2016 as Producer of Florida Matters, WUSF’s public affairs show. She’s also a reporter for WUSF’s Health News Florida project.