03/15/2012 02:19 pm ET Updated Mar 16, 2012

Bath Salts As Drugs: Parents, Health Officials Alarmed Over Rising Number Of Teen Overdoses

The dangerous new synthetic drug "bath salts" -- which mimics the effect of cocaine -- has recently been growing in popularity, particularly among teens, and raising alarm from parents, educators, and drug-enforcement officials. Last September, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration declared an "emergency scheduling authority" to control bath salts, and then banned three synthetic stimulants used to make the drugs in October.

Yesterday, local news station WNEM reported that a 14-year-old Michigan high school student was taken to the hospital after consuming bath salts. And in January, four students at Grand Valley State University in Michigan allegedly overdosed on bath salts in the school's dorms, according to WOOD TV8. The students in question were described as initially incoherent, and then laughing hysterically and acting violently.

Teens looking for a high find that the synthetic chemicals contained in bath salts -- which are also referred to as "purple wave," "zoom," "vanilla sky," and "cloud nine" -- cause an effect that mimics cocaine and methamphetamine. Most bath salts are MDPV, or methylenedioxypyrovalerone, a psychoactive drug with effects that include increased heart rate, dizziness, panic attacks, nausea, nosebleeds, and hallucinations.

According to Drug Addiction Treatment, the drug has been escalating in popularity over the past two years. While in 2009 there were no calls made to the Poison Control Center related to bath salts, in 2011, there were over 6,000.

The growing commonality of using bath salts as a recreational drug has also led to robberies of the product at drug stores and other carriers. Last month in Michigan, two men broke into a discount store to steal $110 worth of bath salts for making drugs. It was the fourth time the store had been robbed since December.

Now, some states are regulating bath salt sales. Last month, the state of Colorado proposed a new law regarding bath salts that would make it a felony to manufacture or distribute the drug. A similar bill was passed last week in Alaska, making the state one of over 28 to issue a bath-salt ban.