Zombies at the Beach

Zombies at the Beach

By now you’ve probably heard. It’s all over the news. A man by the  name of Rudy Eugene, 31, ate another guy’s face in Miami a couple of days ago. Let me write that again. In real life, in our real world that we inhabit, one homeless man ate 75% of another homeless man’s face in Miami, Florida.

Now, this in many ways confirms my feelings regarding Florida and Miami. Many are the times I have returned from the Sunshine State and the Magic City thinking, “man, visiting Miami is like having your face chewed off,” but I never meant it, you know, literally.

News reports are now speculating that Zombie Rudy was probably on “bath salts,” which are not the kind you pour in your bathtub, but instead a “boutique” drug that’s pretty much designed to turn you into The Hulk. (One report indicated that a totally different man high on “bath salts” actually opened his own arm up to pull out the “wires” he “knew” were inside him. He dug into his own flesh. And not because he was trapped between a boulder and James Franco.)

This is scary to me. Not just because I can add “getting nose, mouth, cheeks, and chin gobbled up” to my list of Florida phobias, but also because this drug is not only out there, but ratcheting up, gaining momentum. So what exactly are “bath salts”?

Evil in Powder Form

Initial reportings of Mr. Eugene’s Romero-like rampage considered cocaine use or LSD as the principle catalyst. We can’t imagine that anyone would do something like this while sober and lucid. It is, after all, face eating. But I don’t think that the same substance that drives Lindsay Lohan to the bathroom eight times in one evening would induce some mild cannibalistic cravings (Good God, imagine Hollywood if that were the case). Neither would LSD. But, plenty of media outlets are reporting that Mr. Eugene was on an “LSD-like substance.” Yet, as Discovery points out,

Although frequently described as the “new LSD,” or lysergic acid diethylamide, bath salts in fact don’t have much in common with the hallucinogen of the psychedelic ’60s. Both drugs are synthetic substances, but the similarities don’t extend to the drugs’ primary effects.

While the main effect of LSD is to create visual hallucinations and distortions of time and space perceptions, depending on the dosage employed, “bath salts” are in fact an amphetamine-like chemical, as CNN.com notes, “such as methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV), mephedrone, and pyrovalerone.”

It’s the difference between lying on a riverbank imagining that clouds are dancing before you and going into a steroid-like rage when you’ve decided the clouds are attacking. So, not the same thing at all.

What happens to you? You’ll hallucinate, but that’s just a side-effect. Why take it? You take it because it’s an amphetamine that’s cheaper than cocaine, less white-trash than meth, and trendier than crack cocaine. You can snort it, inject it, or smoke it. And the best part? It’s not totally illegal. That’s what makes it a “designer” or “boutique” drug. Think GHB, except less controlled.

Are drugs to blame?

We live in a strange world. Marijuana continues to be lumped in with drugs like “bath salts” even though I don’t know any stoners that would, you know, EAT SOMEONE’S FACE. Yet, we inevitably forge links between the illegality and potential risks of any street drugs.

From TheDailyBeast:

According to an interview with Eugene’s ex-wife, Jenny Ductant, speaking to WPLG television, the attacker had a sometime-violent disposition during their 2005 to 2007 marriage, as well as an arrest record that included battery and marijuana possession.

“I wouldn’t say he had a mental problem, but he always felt like people was against him,” said Ductant. When they divorced, he had just $2 in cash to his name, according to the divorce filing.

See what just happened there. He was violent. He beat people. He was paranoid. He was broke. He ate someone’s face.  He smoked weed!

I’d be more amused if they had pointed out that Mr. Eugene also drank beer. Or cigarettes. Or if he had any parking tickets.

I’m slightly afraid that anti-marijuana enthusiasts will start pushing the “gateway drug” argument, when it’s absurd. I would venture that Mr. Eugene had a lot more going on than smoking a joint. And he wasn’t seeking the same kind of high when he bought “bath salts” on some street corner. (It’s not like he went to Bath & Body Works.)

The question here, though, is liability. Designer drugs are interesting in this way. I think if you choose to smoke crack or whatever, the onus is on you, clearly. But Mr. Eugene presents an interesting case. “Bath salts” are relatively new (250 cases in the two first months of 2011 doubled the previous year’s use), and no one really knows what’s in them. So, somewhere in Miami-Dade County (why would one ever go there), some street dealer is selling this stuff. And this stuff made some dude gnaw on another man’s nose. Shouldn’t that dealer be, I don’t know, prevented from possibly infecting others with this madness? Doesn’t Dexter live nearby?

From CBS:

Aguilar said drug dealers aren’t aware that the liability could fall back on them.

“I have a message for whoever is selling it out there,” said Aguilar. “You can be arrested for murder if you are selling this LSD to people, unsuspecting people on the street and somebody ends up dying as a result you will be charged with murder.”

Nevermind that Armando Aguilar, president of the Fraternal Order of Police, called the “bath salts” a type of LSD—the point stands.  How responsible is a drug dealer for the crimes committed by his customers?

When a drug takes over your body, gives you super-human strength1, and completely destroys your mind…

Well, we blame Dr. Frankenstein for the monster.

Who can we blame for the zombie?

  1. Rudy Eugene was shot six times and didn’t stop feasting until shot in the head []