NASHUA – Bath salts, K2, spice. All of it should be a lot harder to find in Nashua after police convinced store owners in the city to stop selling the dangerous synthetic drugs.
Nashua police Lt. David Bailey visited 55 independently owned convenience stores, gas stations and smoke shops recently and found 11 were selling the amphetamine-like chemical that has been blamed for dozens of bizarre and disturbing attacks across the country.
All of the stores agreed to stop selling the synthetic drugs, which are sold as bath salts, herbal incense, glass cleaner and more, after Bailey told them about their effects. He began visiting the stores after a spike in the number of people overdosing on it in the city, he said.
“We got information about increased problems about bath salts and synthetic marijuana,” Bailey said. “We took a proactive approach in what we were seeing as a pretty dramatic spike.”
The U.S. House of Representatives and Senate passed legislation last month that added 26 substances to the Controlled Drug Substance Act. That should make it more difficult to produce legal versions of the drugs, Bailey said.
A horrifying attack against a homeless man in Miami in May first brought the drugs into the spotlight. Police shot and killed 31-year-old Rudy Eugene after finding him biting off a homeless man’s face on the side of a Florida freeway.
Although bath salts were widely blamed for the “zombie” attack, officials recently determined Eugene was not on the drug when he was killed.
Nevertheless, it grabbed headlines. Since then, dozens of other bizarre incidents, some including cannibalism, have been blamed on the drugs.
Nothing quite that dramatic has happened in Greater Nashua, but there has been an increase of calls for people overdosing on the drug as well as police and EMTs having to deal with combative, violent and unpredictable people high on the drug.
Chris Stawasz, AMR operations manager, said he’s talked with his EMTs about the signs someone exhibits when they are on the drug, what dangers they present and how they should be treated.
“It’s very high at the top of our list right now for potential problems,” he said. “People are extremely violent, unpredictable. It’s a very high level of physical danger in these calls.”
Stawasz said a community-wide meeting between AMR, police, fire and hospital officials will be held soon to talk about how to address the increase in bath salt overdoses.
“Fortunately, we haven’t experienced the really bizarre incidents you read about,” he said. “It’s definitely here. It’s in Nashua. It’s a scary drug.”
Reports of people overdosing on the drug have increased across the state this year, spiking in April, according to data from the Northern New England Poison Control Center.
There were close to 15 calls to the center in April and nearly 10 in May, the latest month for which data was available. The increase in calls began in March 2011 after virtually no reports about the drug from June 2010 until then, according to the NNEPCC data.
The center, which covers New Hampshire, Maine and Vermont, took 30 calls about bath salts overdoses in Maine in May 2011, according to the report.