Rudy Eugene will always be known as the Miami Zombie, who -- in a barbaric, psychotic state -- allegedly chewed off nearly the entire face of a homeless man.
Eugene was suspected to be on a dangerous designer drug known as bath salts. Similar to meth and cocaine, it causes an elevated heart rate, extreme paranoia, delusions and hallucinations.
Sgt. Larry McKinnon with the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office says bath salts cause aggressive, violent behavior that not only puts users in danger, but everyone else as well.
"These are compounds that are similar to PCP and LSD, and they make people superhuman and put somewhat normal people into some psychotic rages without the feeling of pain," said McKinnon.
Dr. Cynthia Lewis-Younger, with Tampa's Poison Control, says nearly 50 bath salt-related incidents have been reported statewide since January.
But Dr. Younger believes that is the tip of the iceberg. Most bath salt episodes, she says, go unreported.
"We're seeing 12- to 16-year-olds to 60- to 70-year-olds. It's not an isolated age-range problem," she said.
Bath salts are illegal in the state, but those making it skirt around the law but tweaking the chemical compounds every so often. Bath salts go by many names and can be purchased at convenience stores and over the internet.
While the product is carefully labeled "not for human consumption," Dr. Younger says that is precisely why the drug makers have put this extremely toxic substance on the market.
"Addictions are very difficult for people to deal with. I'm not sure we are going to see it go away," she added.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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