In wake of bath salts bust: police say synthetic drug use on rise

Published on January 25, 2013
Pictou County RCMP Const. Bryce Haight, left, and New Glasgow Police Const. Ken MacDonald display the seizure of the illegal drug MDVP, or bath salts, from a bust earlier this week. Other photo shows a close-up of the highly addictive substance. Sueann Musick – The News

NEW GLASGOW – Three large plastic bags sit side by side on a table in the boardroom of New Glasgow Regional Police Service.

To an unsuspecting eye, the contents resemble flour, but instead the bags hold one of the most dangerous synthetic drugs being sold illegally in Canada.

“I spoke with some people who have chosen to take bath salts and when they are coming down and sobering up, you can have some interesting conversations with them,” said Const. Bryce Haight of the Pictou County RCMP. “These are hardcore, long-term drug users, and the first thing they will say is, ‘tell people not to use this stuff.’ These hardcore drug addicts are saying this is the worst thing they’ve ever had.”

Local law enforcement has been dealing with bath salts for more than a year and a recent change in federal legislation has made it illegal not only to traffic it, but also to have in your possession.   

A few times a month, someone will stand before a local judge charged with possessing bath salts, but a significant drug bust in Lyons Brook earlier this week drew new attention to the presence of it in the county.   

A 22-year-old man was arrested earlier this week after being stopped during a routine vehicle check and arrested for possession of marijuana. However, when the Pictou County Integrated Street Crime Enforcement Unit searched his home the next day, it seized six pounds of bath salts valued at more than $350,000.

Haight said while the drug bust was large in size, it will not completely eliminate bath salts from Pictou County.

“This is a significant seizure, but I don’t know if it will ever be under control,” said Haight. “It is like any other drug. People have strong addictions and the urge is there. People are creative, they are driven by desire and addiction itself.  I don’t think one seizure is going to solve Pictou County’s bath salt problem. I would be naïve to suggest that, but it will put in a significant dent.”

However, police opted Friday to take advantage of the news headlines surrounding the bust and clear up a few common misconceptions about the drug.  

Const. Ken MacDonald with New Glasgow Regional Police Services said the big misconception is that people believe the drug looks like “Epsom salts.”

“It is basically made up of synthetic stimulants that are found in a number of household and retail products. There are bath salts that look like that, but the stuff in Pictou County, that we are finding, looks like the stuff we have here today.”

It is often sold in power form in small plastic or foil packages of 200 to 500 milligrams under various brand names. One gram can be sold on the street for between $100 and $200.

In general, MacDonald said, synthetic drugs are on the rise, but because of the highly addictive qualities in the new brand of drugs, the days of experimentation are long gone.

“Experimentation is not like it used be years ago,” he said. “Your addiction rates are higher.”

He said drugs that have similar effects are amphetamines, cocaine, Khat, LSD and MDMA.

People who abuse these substances have reported agitation, insomnia, irritability, dizziness, depression, paranoia, delusions, suicidal thoughts, seizures and panic attacks. Users have also reported effects including impaired perception, reduced motor control and decreased ability to think clearly.

Inhalation is the most common way to consume bath salts, said Haight, but this can be done unknowingly when someone purchases another drug laced with this product.

“Marijuana has been known to be laced with bath salts,” he said. “People might think they’re purchasing marijuana and not know what they are getting. It only takes one or two applications and you are addicted.”

Both officers agree that the most common users of bath salts are between the ages of 20 and 25 years.

“What I find from my experience is that it’s not in the schools,” said Haight. “This is a drug that is being used by someone who has been addicted for a number of years and they are chasing the next high. This is the next high, so the more they smoke, they more need.”

MacDonald said the publicity surrounding bath salts has captured the attention of young school-age children so it’s important the local police continue to educate students on the dangers of drugs and alcohol use through its DARE program.

“We are giving the kids the information and resources to make the right choices,” he said.