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'Bath salt' use on the rise

Hospital sees more overdoses of designer drug

Posted: March 9, 2012 - 9:22am

Overdoses caused by “bath salts,” the latest form of designer drugs finding their way into the community, have increased since fall 2011 at Central Peninsula Hospital.

“It probably has been a couple per month,” said Dr. Robert Emmick, emergency room physician at CPH.

The drugs contain stimulants that act like methamphetamine and cocaine, but produce the added effect of hallucinations, according to the National Institutes of Health. The main stimulants are Mephedrone and Methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV).

Users typically snort, inject or smoke the drugs, which come in powder and crystal forms.

People exhibiting “bath salt” symptoms continue to appear at CPH. Central Peninsula law enforcement officials are knowledgeable about the harmful drugs and monitor the problem while the state addresses regulation.

Kenai Police Chief Gus Sandahl first heard about “bath salts,” also called “plant food” and “air freshener,” last year. Officers at KPD have reported few instances of sales or use of the drugs. The chemical structures of the drugs are modified to avoid provisions of existing illegal substance laws.

Local usage of the drugs often is reported after the fact, Sandahl said.

Information regarding residents entering treatment because of the drugs’ use reaches the department. However, officers have conducted few investigations involving “bath salts,” he said.

Law enforcement officials on the Central Peninsula are not aware of local stores selling the drugs.

The drugs are legal under state law. But legislation introduced by Sen. Kevin Meyer, R-Anchorage, soon could change the legal status. The Alaska Senate passed a bill on March 6 aiming to classify the drugs as schedule IIA controlled substances. SB140 has moved to the House for consideration.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration temporarily banned the drugs in October 2011. The DEA’s emergency action is in effect for a year while government agencies determine how to regulate products containing certain chemicals.

Sandahl said he believes use of the drugs on the Peninsula has remained the same or slightly reduced since the federal ban. People likely will continue to find chemicals that replicate the effects of illegal drugs, he added.

“We’re still battling that problem, and I wish there was a more comprehensive list of illegal chemicals,” he said.

When patients overdosing on the drugs enter CPH, they predominantly exhibit altered mental states, Emmick said.

“I would say they have psychotic features where they’re agitated and not aware of their surrounds,” he said. “It’s very similar to the effects of PCP.”

Doctors and clinicians at U.S. poison centers have indicated that ingesting or snorting “bath salts” containing synthetic stimulants cause chest pains, increased blood pressure, increased heart rate, agitation, hallucinations, extreme paranoia and delusions, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Patients also have associated electrolyte abnormalities and metabolic acidosis, meaning their blood is more acidic. Respiratory acidosis, a condition that occurs when the lungs cannot remove all of the carbon dioxide the body produces, in combination with a lack of blood flow may cause brain damage, Emmick said.

Knowledge about the drugs’ chemical composition and short- and long-term effects is limited.

“In my opinion, it could be assumed the long-term effects would be similar to prior designer type drugs, like ecstasy,” he said.

Many animal studies have yielded evidence that ecstasy use causes a variety of behavioral and cognitive deficiencies, as well as impairing memory. The applicability of these results to humans has been vigorously contested, according to the Western Journal of Medicine.

People who use “bath salts” may have an impression the drugs are safer, Emmick and Sandalh said. The drugs can be found on the Internet, where they are marketed under gentle names like “Vanilla Sky.”

When patients are no longer under the effects of the drugs, they have told doctors at CPH the drugs induce milder side effects, Emmick said.

“They feel that they are safe and do not expect to suffer any ill side effects or long-term problems,” he said. “There are adverse side effects in the immediate.”

The drugs gained a following because they are not detectable by standard drug screening. As a result, the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services has recommended health providers include “bath salts” in substance abuse screening discussions.

Sandahl said he has read literature about the drugs destroying families nationwide. His main concern is use without personal knowledge of its chemical components.

“People really don’t know what they’re ingesting when they buy this stuff,” he said.

Jerzy Shedlock can be reached at

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SXQ 03/11/12 - 06:47 pm
Don't waste time or money

Dont' make excuses for such low life drug abusers, they know perfectly well what they are doing...They OD and suck up time in the ER when maybe someone else with a real emergency gets neglected...Suicidal people, drug abusers should be left to deal with their own fate, waste of time to try to help those types of people...

Jerry 03/11/12 - 10:00 pm
I just watched a show about

I just watched a show about American Indians in the Dakota's that drink liquid hair spray mixed with water to get drunk.
It is amazing how we humans can become addicted to many distructive things in our world, things that suck the life out of us and all those around us.

I use to hate people like these, until i realized that we all have some thing that could be deemed as enough to warrant some form of rejection by others, society, things that others don't struggle with in life, yet are bad choices causing condemnation.

I came to understand that there are many things that we all do that are classified as unexceptable to others & its all sin according to Gods rules.
But, we humans tend to catagorize sins & sinners into class' of this or that, or i'm not as bad as those over there, so i'm good to go.
We all do it, even though it really not ok to do so.

The only place i see that people are allowed to judge others is in the church of Jesus Christ, as he, Paul, tells us to judge people that claim to be followers of Jesus.
Paul says that we are going to judge angels through out eternity, so we should be able to judge other Christians for the purpose of helping them, not condeeming them, as we are all sinners saved by Grace, through Faith in Jesus Christ alone, not of works, so none of us can boast about our saving ourselves by being good.

I have come to realize that God loves every one of us and has given his son to redeem us ALL from sins that bind us & destroy us if we continue in them.
I use to hate people & want to see them suffer for their sins against me, that is until i realized that Jesus loves them just as much as he loved me when i was doing wrong to others, and finally brought me to the place i needed to be to accept his love & forgiveness.

Yes i agree drug users & dealers are bad sinners, & waste a huge amount of time & money by trying to care for them, but their not alone in that area, now are they??

In Gods eyes sinners are the Liers, Haters, Theives, Slanders, Adulters, [filtered word]'s, Haters of parents, Drunkards, Druggies and on the list goes with absolutely no differance in the way God looks at all of US that commit these things.
Every one of these sins cost a lot of time & money, but, it cost Jesus his life to redeem US all from them, and thats something that no amount of money can buy, or pay for, if only we would accept this free healing from our adiction to sin and it's distructive results on life.

Why does God care? Because God sees his creation, humanbeings, created in his image & likeness equally in needing help to escape things that would seperate us from him & destroy every thing around us, including our selves.

I hate the sins of these sinners, as much as i hate my failures, sins, but, i must love the sinners & feel for them just as God fells for me daily, and has forgiven me by the Blood of Jesus Christ.
Christ Jesus, my, OUR, Only Hope of True Fundamental Change To Believe In.
Jesus loves me & all of you & gave his life to redeem us all, & its absolutely free, just for asking, if only we would do so. John 3:16-18

msjinxie 03/13/12 - 06:54 am
WHERE are the parents??

I'm sorry, but this is completely insane! Bath Salts? Wow, getting pretty desperate to avoid life sounds like to me. I am a successful parent of two grown kids. I did not leave them, or allow them to just spend the night with others after age 13. Lets face it, I'm pretty sure this is all going on behind their backs. Parents need to stop avoiding their kids and interact with them. They are SCREAMING for your attention, and everytime you allow the bad behavior, and do not punish them every single time, you run the risk of losing them to something needless. Get off your butts and start parenting!! Take things they like away when they are disruptive in school or at home, make them do chores around the house so they learn the value of a dollar. Trust me, you keep them busy, and not allow them to run like a wild dog, you will have success too. You can't be the best friend and the parent guys. They have TONS of friends. They need only one Mother, and one Father. BE THERE FOR THEM.

cbeard 03/13/12 - 09:32 am

What most people wont tell you is that 99.9% of the time these parents are the initial problem. Usually younger parents who already have addictions and no experience in parenting produce older children and young adults engaged in these activities.

You can whine and say "be there for them" but what good will that do if the parents are already a doped up mess?

soldotna 03/13/12 - 11:39 am

To me life is all about responsibilities as a person you need to step up and take them on. However with the government wiping most people noses at every turn or giving them money for their mistakes. Responsibilities are becoming a thing of the past and if you have no responsibilities then why be responsible at all. It seems now days go out act like a dumb ass and the government will pick up the mess behind you give you a couple of bucks and shoes you back on your way until it happens all over again.

IMO its like that spoiled kid you went to school with that no matter how much trouble he got into or how badly he acted his parents bailed him out of everything and then he grew up to be a Looser. That's pretty much what the Government is doing with people in its system but even worse is these peoples kids are growing up seeing all the hand outs for nothing and that their partners are not responsible and you get the monkey see monkey do affect.

It's a sad sad world we live in and its turn into a few carrying the many and its only going to get worse.

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