Pubdate: Tue, 24 May 2011 Source: Morris Daily Herald (IL) Copyright: 2011 Morris Daily Herald Contact: http://www.morrisdailyherald.com/ Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/3671 Author: Christina Chapman THAT'S NOT YOUR NORMAL POTPOURRI Synthetic drugs being marketed under names such as "White Dove bath salts" and "Mister Nice Guy potpourri" may not have been the cause of death in any cases yet in Grundy County, but they have contributed to the loss of life. "My concern is it may not be the immediate cause of death, but it can be the cause of the incident ending up in death," Grundy County Coroner John Callahan said. Being under the influence of a substance causes delayed reactions and bad decision making. In the last year, Callahan said, his office has investigated two deaths where toxicology reports have come back with synthetic cannabis in the deceased's system. Across the state, authorities are seeing an increase use of synthetic drugs being disguised as bath salts, potpourri, incense, plant food and other products. As of right now, the drugs are not illegal because manufacturers are changing the chemical makeup to get a person high, but the makeup alteration is not enough to not make it illegal, Grundy County State's Attorney John Bates said. In addition, the packages say "Not for human consumption," in an attempt to protect manufacturers from liability. The fact the drugs are legal, easily accessible, and do not show up on drug tests means the drugs are a rapidly growing trend among all ages, officials say. Depending on the product, a person using it could get a high similar to that from cannabis or as extreme as those from methamphetamine or Ecstasy. Some of the products contain methylenedioxypyrovalerone, or MDPV, Bates noted. These synthetic drugs can cause severe anxiety, agitation, increased heart rate, delusions, seizures, high blood pressure and even death. "It's a combination of the dose, whether its injected, ingested, snorted, and it also depends on the other medicines or substances the person is on," said Dr. Carol DesLauriers with the Illinois Poison Center. "(The effect also) depends on the person. It's like when one person has to drink five cups of coffee to get out of bed in the morning and another has one cup of coffee and goes nuts." At the end of April, an Alton woman died of an overdose on bath salts, while earlier this month an Indiana woman high on bath salts trashed a hotel room. The woman was found on the hotel bed rambling about evil spirits and that she had to write on the walls to protect herself from them, according to published reports. Although Morris Hospital has not encountered any emergency situations dealing directly with these synthetic drugs, it is being sold locally, said Bates, who has been alerted of this through drug court officials. Bates said the synthetic drugs are sold in convenience stores, truck stops, smoke shops and specialty stores. Because the stores are not doing anything illegal, arrests cannot be made. Currently, the Illinois House and Senate are looking at proposed bills to outlaw such drugs. The federal government is also looking at measures. In January "K2," a synthetic cannabis, was made illegal. But shortly thereafter, new chemical versions were on the market, said Paula Goodwin, prevention specialist for the Grundy County No Tolerance Task Force. The Morris Daily Herald found these synthetic drugs being sold locally in at least two Morris stores. "It's not supposed to do anything, it says potpourri. But, like kids sniffing glue, they do what they're not supposed to do," said an employee of one of the local establishments selling the products. So why still sell it? Because, said the employee, the customers are asking for it and were going to other towns for it. "We figure, let's get the tax revenue here," said the employee. With the K2 law that took affect in January, sales have gone down. If a person talks about ingesting the product in any way, they have to refuse to sell to them, said the employee. What's surprising, the employee said, is the age range of people purchasing the products. They see anyone from age 30 to 60 purchasing the bath salts and potpourri. The poison center said the average age at which they are seeing usage is around 30. Half to most who use these products end up in the hospital, said DesLauriers. Callahan confirmed the two Grundy County deaths with the drugs in their system were middle-aged people. "And we're not seeing this as an urban problem. Over half are outside of Cook County," DesLauriers said. TRENDING UPWARD Morris police anticipate the trend growing locally, even though it is not a big issue currently, Chief Brent Dite said. "It's here and our officers are aware of it and are doing what they can to get it off the streets," Dite said. The Metropolitan Area Narcotics Squad has made all the local agencies aware of these drugs and the No Tolerance Task Force is spreading word and information to its contacts. Goodwin said there have been reports of local youth admitting to using these products. Making people aware is key because of what is known of the immediate effects, but also because no one knows what the long-term effects of these synthetic drugs are. "If you think your child is being very clean because for two months he's been buying bath salts, it could be synthetic drugs . . . it's very dangerous," Dite said, and parents need to be aware of what their child is doing. Dr. DesLauriers encouraged parents to keep their eyes out for behavior changes, like you would look for if you suspected any other drug use. Possible warning signs include a person no longer liking to do what they used to, borrowing or stealing money, having changes in his or her appearance (dress, blood -shot eyes), or using air fresheners or breath mints more frequently to cover odors. "You don't know what is really in the dosage, if its contaminated or the difference from brand to brand or batch to batch. We don't know the long-term effects, so it's really kind of scary," she said. - --- MAP posted-by: Richard R Smith Jr.