The abuse of the drug bath salts has been a trend for a little under 10 years and is still currently being used today.

According to the National Drug Early Warning System at the University of Maryland, from Jan. 1 to Aug. 31, 2016 the U.S. poison centers have received reports of 266 exposures to synthetic cathinones (bath salts).

Dr. Brooks Pond, an associate professor in the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, has been awarded a grant by the East Tennessee State University Research Development Committee to conduct her research on the effects of the synthetic drug.

According to the news release sent out last week by the ETSU Office of University Relations, Pond has found evidence that when the drugs are “used in combination with each other,” there’s an increase in dopamine in certain regions of the brain. Research in Pond’s lab indicates that this may be lead to brain cell loss.

“Our research will answer pertinent questions regarding the long-term toxicities of bath salts,” Pond said. “Essentially, we are hypothesizing that chronic exposure to combined synthetic drugs causes toxicity to certain regions of the brain.”