Bath Salts: The New Drug Menace

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A designer drug sold legally in area stores is raising concern among judges, police and parents.

They are marketed as bath salts. There were more reports of poisoning nationwide from the abuse of so-called bath salts in January of this year, than in all of 2010.

For $40 a spoonful, some area stores peddle what some call a designer drug marketed as bath salts. A man who recently used them to get high knows the name is misleading.

“I doubt anybody took a bath in it,” said the man, who wants to be known as “Kenny,” which is not his real name. He is a recovering heroin addict who claims he was clean for two years.Then he snorted bath salts. “This stuff is physically addicting, to where you need it, just like heroin.”

It is packaged as Vanilla Sky, Ivory Wave, Blue Silk,and Tranquility.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency claims chemists designed the bath salt substance “MDPV” to mimic the highs of cocaine and meth.

“Kenny” said he knows at least 20 people who use it.

“It’s a very serious problem that we’re facing today,” Judge Michael Barrasse, who heads up Lackawanna County’s Drug Treatment Court.

“They’re probably more addictive then some of the substances that we’ve been concerned with for years, like methamphetamine,” added Tony Pero, who is the director of Lackawanna County Drug and Alcohol Treatment.

In Judge Barrasse’s treatment court last month, he asked a group of recovering addicts on probation how many had used bath salts. Ten raised their hands, according to Judge Barrasse, who added a handful of others later confessed they too used the synthetic drug.

“In just the small microcosm of the treatment court if we’re seeing that many, that it’s a very widely-used item,” said Judge Barrasse.

“Our pot users are using it,” added veteran probation office Gene Eider. “Our heroin users, our pill users, they’ve all been using it.”

“Our testing is limited, and right now, there isn’t a test to detect it,” warned Pero.

The bath salts may be expensive, but they’re easy to get. Newswatch 16 hidden cameras found three brands of the synthetic drug at Nirvana’s Closet at the Schuylkill Mall.

The bath salt user who goes by “Kenny” said he bought his bath salts at the Smokes R’ Us store on Business Route 6 in Dickson City. When Newswatch 16 went in the clerk offered to sell us the same brand.

Judge Barrasse believes many retailers sell bath salts to kids and addicts, knowing they’re using it to get high.

“Really its the equivalent of giving them a loaded gun and saying, ‘Go shoot yourself,'” said the judge.

Nationally, the federal agents blame four deaths on bath salts last year.

Emergency room doctors at Community Medical Center in Scranton, and Geisinger Wyoming Valley, Wilkes Barre General, and Hazleton General Hospital report they have treated people for overdoses and poisoning side effects.

“I’m scared that I’m going back into addiction,” said “Kenny.” He added he recently came down after a bath salt high and felt suicidal. As a father, he fears he will lose his children, his wife, perhaps his life with one more slip up. When asked how hard is it going to be to avoid bath salts, he responded, “It’s going to be extremely hard. It’s not going to be possible.”

He added, “For sure I’m going to do it again. I know I am. That’s why I’m so scared.”

Earlier this week a bill written to make synthetic marijuana illegal in Pennsylvania was amended to include bath salts.

The city of Scranton is not waiting. Mayor Chris Doherty is drafting legislation to make the sale and possession of bath salts illegal in the city limits.