Pubdate: Sun, 26 Jun 2011
Source: Helena Independent Record (MT)
Copyright: 2011 Helena Independent Record
Author: Peggy O'Neil, Lifestyles Editor, Independent Record


Bath Salts | While Substance Is Legal and Marked Not for Human
Consumption, Users Snort, Eat and Inject It

It comes in small containers with appealing packaging and names like
"Vanilla Sky," Bliss," "Ivory Snow" and "Tranquility." But the side
effects of these products can be anything but tranquil.

A designer drug marketed as "bath salts" is making its way into the
Helena community. The white, powdery drug is easily obtained over the
Internet and is said to create a high similar to stimulants ecstasy
and cocaine. And although the label on the products clearly says, "Not
for human consumption," users are snorting it, eating it and injecting
it into their blood stream.

"We're seeing it in several instances," said Lt. Corey Livesay with
the Helena Police Department. "We're seeing it in people's behavior.
And in talking to some of the people we've incarcerated, they validate
that the substance is in Helena."

While the drug can cause a sense of euphoria for users, it can also
cause hallucinations, paranoia and aggression.

In Los Angeles, a 21-year-old man became so paranoid after snorting
bath salts he shot himself in the head. An army medic in Washington
shot himself and his wife; bath salts were found in the blood streams
of both victims. Their 5-year-old son was later found dead at the
couple's home.

Bath salts can contain "stimulant compounds 3,4- methylenedioxyprovalerone
(MDPV) or 4-methylmethcathinone (mephedrone)," according to a warning
posted by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention last month.
According to the report, poison control centers in 45 states and the
District of Columbia have received calls related to bath salts, and by
April of this year the centers had received five times more calls
about the drug than they had in 2010.

Mary Hilko, the public education coordinator for Rocky Mountain Poison
and Drug Center, which responds to emergency calls in Montana, Idaho,
Hawaii, Nevada and Colorado, said there have been no bath-salt-related
emergency calls in Montana yet.

"We don't know if they're just not calling us," Hilko said. "Not
everyone calls us; they may not know we're a resource."

Hilko said that the center is seeing a rise in the use of bath salts
in the other states it covers. So far this year, the center has had 16
calls from both Colorado and Nevada, 10 from Idaho and four from
Hawaii. In 2010, the center received a total of five bath-salt-related
calls from the five states combined.

"I consider it a public health problem, especially with young people,"
Hilko said. "They are the ones tuned into this. They are curious and
lack the wisdom to think about consequences of risky behaviors.
Parents need to pay attention to their kids and watch their behaviors."

In addition to paranoia, aggression and hallucinations, side effects
can also include tachycardia, hypertension, agitation, muscle pain,
spasms and emotional mood swings, according to Vicki Turner, director
of the prevention resource center at the Montana Department of Health
and Human Services.

According to Turner, use of the drug can also cause psychosis, kidney
failure, loose bowel control and is followed by a painful hangover.

Users are also combining the drug, which can be highly addictive, with
other drugs such as hydrochodone and fentanyl patches, Turner said.

"It can create some toxic situations in the body," Turner

Presence of bath salts is causing a dilemma for law enforcement
agencies across the country. The product is not illegal in most
states, including Montana, and the chemicals contained in it are not
listed on federal con-trolled substance schedules.

In some communities, bath salts are sold at convenience stores and
tobacco shops, but this doesn't seem to be the case in Helena, at
least not now.

"We went looking for it," Livesay said. "We got word a couple of the
specialty shops were possibly distributing it. We were told at one
point some shops had it out, but they've since pulled it."

And since it's not illegal to possess or purchase bath salts, there's
not much law enforcement can do unless a user is caught in the act of
doing something illegal while high on the drug.

"We have officers trained in drug recognition," Livesay said. "We have
had instances where people are ingesting these and operating a motor
vehicle. They can be charged with driving offenses, criminal
endangerment. Under the DUI statute, if you ingest any drug or alcohol
and it impairs your ability to drive, you can be charged."

Bath salts aren't the only synthetic drug the community needs to be
aware of, according to Livesay and Turner. Other drugs with nicknames
"meow meow," "K2" and "cheese" (also known as cheesecake) have also
popped up in the Helena area.

Turner also pointed out that these products are relatively cheap --
bath salts sell for between $20 and $40 for a 250 mg container.

"People are looking for an inexpensive high," Turner said. "There is
always something new and different to be injected, cut up and snorted.

"Be vigilant with your kids and families -- know this stuff exists,"
Turner said. 
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