Jan. 4, 2013 at 10:41 AM ET
The Navy is hoping that a disturbing public service announcement will scare people away from “bath salts” -- deadly chemicals with a seemingly innocent name that are plaguing its sailors.
The 6-minute PSA, “Bath Salts: It’s Not a Fad, It’s a Nightmare,” is filmed from a first-person perspective. It documents a young man’s bizarre, erratic behavior after snorting the synthetic drug (which is labeled “bath salts” in an attempt to sidestep drug laws, but has no relationship to real bath salts) and the terrifying psychotic visions he experiences. The man reacts to his concerned girlfriend with paranoia and violence, and his hallucinations include seeing everyone turn demonic.
The video later shows the solider rushed into a hospital, subdued only after the use of restraints and sedation.
“Bath salts will not only jack up your family and your career, it will jack up your mind and your body too,” explains Lt. George Loeffler, a Naval psychiatry resident, in the PSA.
Like methamphetamine, bath salts are synthetically concocted in a lab. They are banned by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
“When people are using bath salts, they're not their normal selves. They're angrier. They're erratic. They're violent and they’re unpredictable,” Loeffler says.
The Navy created the video after dealing with an alarming spike in the use of the designer drug by sailors last year. It began randomly testing soldiers this week, searching specifically for evidence of the use of bath salts.
The PSA has gone viral since it was released on the Internet two weeks ago. While some have criticized it as a shock video, medical experts say the depiction is realistic.
“My impression of the PSA was that, I'm sure some people think that it may have been exaggerated, it may be uncomfortable for some people to watch, but it's accurate,” said Mark Ryan, the director of Louisiana's poison center.
Although bath salts are banned nationally, authorities say there are many variations of the drug and enforcement has been difficult.
The Navy’s response to combating drug use comes as another military branch deals with an increase in suicides. The Defense Department reported this week that more soldiers took their own lives than died in combat last year. Through November, 177 active-duty soldiers had committed suicide compared to 165 during all of 2011 and 156 in 2010. In all of 2012, 176 soldiers were killed in action.