A photo of bath salts with lines of bath salts and a rolled up dollar bill.

Once called bath salts these packets of powder, containing substances of the substituted cathinone chemical class, were found in abundance around smoke shops and gas stations across the country. The origination of these compounds have been linked to many sources around the world, but are most commonly linked to Europe and China. Being taken to the United States through the Canadian border or being shipped here through the once numerous online vendors.  

What Happened To The Vendors?  
They were all shut down! Thanks to a proposal for a national ban by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY)in February 2011, these absolutely powerful chemicals became banned in America in October 2011 due to an emergency ban issued by the DEA. Their reasoning was due to the increasing amount of calls and reports from hospitals and poison center across the United States. All of the major "bath salts" up until this point have become known as the 1st Generation Bath Salts.  
Bag of mephedrone
Bag of Mephedrone
1st Generation Bath Salts: Main Players 
The three main players were 4-methylmethcathinone (4-MMC) or Mephedrone (AKA MCAT or Drone), Methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV), and Methylone. These three drugs were quite novel designer drugs. All three of these drugs take certain chemical aspects of other well known drugs, which give them their potency, however they include enough extra chemical structure to not be considered a drug. Mephedrone in particular has chemical aspects of cathinones (a stimulant found in khat a plant in Africa) and amphetamines (a street drug and chemical used to make adderall) making it the most potent stimulant of the three, and it was able to be manufacture, distributed, and sold in America due to a methyl group (4 atoms) added to its benzene ring. Methylone has chemical properties similar to MDMA, giving it certain qualities of ecstasy in addition to its stimulant properties due to its chemical preoperties similar to amphetamines, and cathinones. It was allowed to skirt around the Federal Analogue Act due to a beta ketone group (aka an addition of an oxygen atom to its  MDPV is a drug that is chemically based off of pyrovalerone (a european weightloss drug that was popular in the 70s), which did not have a legal status in America allowing this drug to escape seizure by law enforcment by reasoning of the Federal Analogue Act (FAA). 

What is the Federal Analogue Act?  
This act was passed as a section of the United States Controlled Substances Act in 1986. It allows for any chemical "substantially similar" to a controlled substance listed in either Schedule I or II to be treated as if it were also listed in those schedules. There is only one catch though. The chemical has to be intended for human consumption. This part of the law is key in the history of bath salts. As an ingenious marketing ploy the designers of these drugs decided to promote them as bath salts. On all of the packaging for these branded (Ivory Wave, Mega Seller, Tranquility) chemicals they displayed, "Not intended for human consumption." In doing this, these chemicals were sold across the United States effectively escaping the Federal Analogue Act.  

If people knew that this was being done, could anyone do anything about it? The Federal Analogue Act was a federal law, enforced by the Office of Justice's Drug Enforcement Agency. What began to happen was the States began outlawing the chemicals found in Bath Salts. When the DEA announced that they were going to ban bath salts, there were already 33 states that had their own bans on them already. While people in these states could not purchase these chemicals at their local head shops, this did not stop the sale of these chemicals online and their shipment into these states. The federal ban officially stopped the shipment of these drugs into the United States ending one of the most talked media stories at the time. 

The Media Hype
America has had the reputation of having a vicious media environment. This was fully displayed by the stories that poured in by the media of men eating their faces off, ripping their balls off, etc. Over a short period of time the country began to become outraged by the sale of these chemicals on store shelves, which eventually led to the ban by the DEA. Where were bath salts talked about? They made the headline stories on ABC, 20/20, CNN etc. The media hype over these drugs continues to this day. At the time of this writing, CNN just came out with an article 14 hours ago concerning a young lady who "got arteritis after smoking synthetic pot." She is now debilitated. 
Synthetic marijuana (aka Spice or K2) became wrapped into the argument with bath salts very quickly. Mainly because both are synthetic (man made) substances that were sold on store shelves  and they became very popular around the same time resulting in calls to poison centers and trips to the hospital. 
While many of these stories shed light onto the symptoms of people who consume these drugs, they are often over the top and fueled with language to get people to think twice before buying them.
I will be back soon to write more on this subject, specifically having to do with each of the first generation of bath salts and a lot more information on each of the compounds. If you have any comments always feel free to submit them below. Thanks for reading.