A new designer drug is raising concern around the country. A synthetic amphetamine, commonly called "bath salts," is a dangerous stimulant that has effects skin to cocaine or meth. At least four deaths have been blamed on the substance as local, state and federal agencies move to ban or control it.

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) is calling for a federal ban on the drug. “The so-called ‘bath salts’ are nothing more than deadly narcotics and they are being sold cheaply to all comers no questions asked, at store counters around the country…we want to nip this in the bud before it becomes an epidemic,” Schumer said.

Schumer said he will introduce a bill to outlaw the two synthetic drugs -- mephedrone and methylenedioxypyrovalerone, or MDPV. The drugs come in powder and tablet form and are ingested by snorting, injection, smoking and, less often, by use of an atomizer.

The Drug Enforcement Administration says it is currently investigating the rogue bath salts, and says the substance can precipitate “an intense high, euphoria, extreme energy, hallucinations, insomnia and easily provoked anger” when snorted, smoked, injected or used with a vaporizer.

"These products are readily available at convenience stores, discount tobacco outlets, gas stations, pawnshops, tattoo parlors, truck stops and other locations," said an alert issued by the DEA.

The European Unioon banned mephedrone in Decemb er, saying it may have been involved in 39 deaths.

Banned in Florida

Florida seems to have taken the lead in combating the substance.  Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi filed an emergency order last week that will add substances containing MDVP to the state's schedule of controlled substances and Escambia County Sheriff's Office narcotics detectives raided several convenience stores and smoke shops, seizing what they said was $13,000 worth of the drugs.

"Due to the violent nature of the side effects involved in taking these drugs, the emergency rule will provide law enforcement with the tools necessary to take this dangerous substance off the shelves and protect the abusers from themselves as well as others,” said Bondi. “These are dangerous drugs that should not be confused with any type of common bath product.”

North Dakota and Louisiana have also banned the bath salts drugs.

Common street names for this drug include: Vanilla Sky, Ivory Wave, Ocean Burst and Bolivian Bath. The substance is usually snorted although it can be smoked or swallowed. Reported side effects of MDPV include: increased heart rate, nosebleeds, hallucinations, severe paranoia, seizures, and kidney failure.

Schumer: Action needed 

In pushing for legislation to ban the substance, Schumer noted that pharmacological research is a long process and he said the country "cannot afford to wait while convenience stores, online merchants, and smoke shops continue to sell this synthetic drug to anyone in the country, including teens and children."

While many of the reports of violent behavior and death resulting from the drugs have come from the South and the Midwest, Schumer said he is hoping to head off the proliferation of the drug in New York State. In a letter to the New York State Commissioner of Health Dr. Nirav Shah, Schumer urged the commissioner to exercise all powers of his office to put in place a ban on the chemicals and, if necessary, work with the New York State Legislature to pass legislation to do so. In additional to 3 states that have already banned the chemicals, several others are actively considering the move.

“This is no run-of-the-mill household product; it is a deceptively disguised drug that can easily and cheaply be accessed by our children and teens,” continued Schumer. “This is a product, being hocked at local convenience stores and smoke shops for one simple purpose: to offer a cheap and quick high. The consequences of delaying action are deadly. We must act now.”