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A crash course given on bath salts
RUMFORD -- A new designer drug known as bath salts or monkey dust has become increasingly popular and increasingly scary.
Poison centers across the country have reported growing numbers of calls about the synthetic stimulant, and more and more states are banning the drug. But as of now, there is no federal law prohibiting their sale.
The Drug Enforcement Administration does not regulate these substances, but they are under federal scrutiny, as the effects of these salts are comparable to methamphetamine abuse, according to poison control centers and other law enforcement agencies.
On the long bulletin board in the Rumford Police Department, among the most wanted people, is a flyer warning people are bath salts.
Bath salts is a man-made synthetic drug sold as plant food and marketed as "not for human consumption."
The flyer said that if you come in contact with someone you think may be under the influence of bath salts, you:
1. Do not approach;
2. Do not be confrontational;
3. Call 911.
Rumford Police Chief Stacy Carter said, "We have had several cases over the last few months."
He said it's become a growing trend, although, with the new legislation making it a scheduled illegal drug, he's seen the number of cases trend downward.
Sgt. Tracey Higley said cases of using bath salts appeared in the Rumford area as far back as last September, adding it was also confirmed that "students in our school system were using them."
He said they also did have a bath sale manufacturer here, who has since moved to the Lewiston area.
Higley noted, however, that not every trip with the use of bath salt is a bad one, which is why people continue to use it.
On Nov. 1, more than 70 first responders, medical, school and town officials gathered in Muskie Auditorium for a three-hour conference hosted by Rumford police for an in-depth look into the rapidly growing epidemic.
Make no mistake: These are not bath salts like those you would use in your bath. Three officials from Bangor led the discussion, including Bangor Police Lt. Thomas J. Reagan, who provided an overview of the situation both nationally and in Maine.
Reagan said, although there's only been one known death so far in Bangor from bath salts, "Every day, every shift, we're dealing with this. It's a crisis."
He said they have two officers show up if there's even a remote chance bath salts are involved.
Bath salts have numerous street names, such as monkey dust. In England, it's called meow meow, where it has caused 200 deaths. Europe has been dealing with this problem for eight years.
Reagan said this is not artificial marijuana. It's an artificial methamphetamine. He said nationally, the poison control center is getting 84 calls a day for bath salts.
He said most all the cases of bath salts involve longtime drug users looking for an intense high. The biggest source for bath salts is the internet. Along the bath salts, the drug users are taking other drugs to help minimize the anxiety and paranoria associated with bath salts.
Reagan said, “Flashbacks can happen for the next 72 hours. This is a real problem.”
He said emergency room staff have treated bath salt users and revived them only to see symptoms flare up again many hours later, often after they've been released.
“When we deal with them, we get them and we take them to jail, get them through intake and you sign Symptoms, 'No, nothing,' they put them upstairs in the general population, and then 72 hours, 48 hours later or whatever, they start having these recurring issues: anxiety, high body temperatures, high blood pressure, high pulse rates, paranoia,” said Reagan.
He noted, "A high school kid uses this stuff on Saturday night. Monday morning math class and this stuff may start kicking back in, so you have to be aware of that.”
Reagan said there are usually three possible stages, the first being stimulant effects which are similar to cocaine. The euphoric state from taking bath salts may last 20 minutes to more than three hours, he said.
The second stage is paranoid delusional. Users no longer feel safe and begin doing things that typically get police involved.
Then comes the critical or toxic stage — excited delirium, which he described as “walking overdose.” He showed a video of police trying to safeguard a man in this stage who fought against several of them for five minutes before dying.
Reagan said it's imperative to get emergency responders and backup police officers there as soon as possible.
People on bath salts sometimes display what Reagan called superhuman strength, and they are also impervious to pain, despite injuring themselves.
Higley said the message was that they need to set up a protocol regarding bath salts by working together.
Rick Redmond, a licensed social worker at Acadia Hospital in Bangor, said one user ripped apart a convenience store, causing more than $10,000 in damage.
“This is a person who really believes someone is trying to kill them. The hallucinations cover all five of the senses. They're hearing, seeing, smelling, tasting and touching things that aren't there,” he said.
Reagan said an increasing number of people using bath salts have firearms, which they use to try to fend off their hallucinations of people or things trying to get to them.
“Because of the depression and hallucinations that these people were experiencing, it was our fear that somebody was seriously going to get hurt — either the victim or an innocent person that gets wrapped up in hallucinations unknowingly or law enforcement officers that are dealing with them,” he said.
Reagan noted, “This is one of the worst drugs that we've seen because of the effects that it's having on the users — the extreme paranoia and the hallucinations.”
Higley and Carter said there will be a less, technical bath salt forum offer to the public at a later date.