Bath salts are back.
The Upstate New York Poison Center has seen a resurgence in calls related to bath salts and other synthetic drugs in the past few months, said Administrative Director Michele Caliva.
“We’re still seeing it and we have seen in the last few months an increase again,” she said. “It’s nowhere near what we saw in 2012 and 2013, but it’s still a spike.”
The poison center first started getting calls about synthetic drugs known as bath salts in early 2011. The chemicals in them were legal at that time. Their use exploded in the spring of 2012 and every day multiple calls came over the police scanner about an incident involving someone apparently high on bath salts.
The symptoms of use also started to become more intense in some cases; police and health care workers struggled to deal with users who often were belligerent, hallucinating and super strong. A number of them stripped, became violent toward things that weren’t really there and even threatened to eat people.
A coalition of politicians, health care workers, poison control center staff, drug treatment specialists and law enforcement fought back, quickly pushing through legislation to ban the chemicals in bath salts and cracking down on the head shops that sold them. The epidemic faded, although bath salts never completely went away.
This year, the poison center has received 31 bath salts calls and another seven calls for synthetic drugs, including ones called molly, Caliva said. Those seven calls have all come since August, four of them in November, she said.
Names don’t mean much when it comes to synthetic drugs. There’s an ever evolving variety of synthetic drugs out there and any one of them might be referred to as bath salts or molly, which used to be the name of a form of MDMA, Caliva said.
They all act as stimulants and can cause tachycardia, hypertension, agitation, hallucinations, paranoia and altered reality, she said. But the chemicals have changed and they’re not causing the most extreme reactions seen in 2012, Caliva said. That could, of course, change.
Synthetic drugs pose many difficulties for the health care workers treating users. Without elaborate testing, no one knows exactly what chemical configuration was in the drug in question, Caliva said.
“It makes it so difficult, it really does,” she said. “You just don’t know.”
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