Organizations seek county-wide bath salts ban

Nearly two weeks after her son committed suicide while high on bath salts, a mother in Mohawk said she wants to let people know these drugs are dangerous and destructive.
The woman — who was asked not to be identified because of the sensitive nature surrounding her son’s death — said she watched as her son’s mental stability declined after he started to use the drug. “He had become extremely paranoid,” she said during a telephone conversation on Monday.
She added, “He was very depressed and wasn’t himself.”
She said state police were contacted after family members had been unable to contact him for 24 hours. He was found inside his trailer on Father’s Day, dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Her son — a 39-year-old truck driver who lived in Bridgewater — left behind four children and a fiancee pregnant with his fifth child.
“What people don’t understand with these bath salts, you try them once and you’re addicted,” she said. “There’s a need to educate the public.” She added, “Before you go out and try this, you need to look at your kid. This is going to effect them. Even if they’re not near the bath salts, it’s going to effect them. It’s going to tear homes and families apart.”
The number of reported bath salts incidents has skyrocketed over the past few months in the region, with some of the individuals undergoing mental health evaluations following bizarre incidents while under the influence of the drug.
The Utica Police Department had at least three bath salts incidents to respond to over the weekend, including one on Saturday where a man was on a rooftop for hours and thought everyone was going to ambush him.
According to the Herkimer County Prevention Council’s website, “Synthetic drugs are man-made chemicals that mimic such drugs as marijuana, cocaine and methamphetamines.”
State Sen. Joseph Griffo announced last week he wants to see tougher legislation on synthetic drugs. He said part of the difficulty law enforcement officers and prosecuters have had is once a law is put out banning a certain compound, chemists making the drug alter the compound to make it legal again.
Lee Livermore, a public health education coordinator at the Upstate New York Poison Center in Syracuse, said the center, which covers 54 counties in the state, had just over 100 calls in 2011 about bath salts. In the first six months of 2012, they have had approximately 120 calls regarding the drug.
“I think with a lot of the media attention on bath salts, that we’re hearing about it a lot more,” he said during a telephone interview on Tuesday.
Livermore said people using bath salts experience seizures or convulsions. He said they often take their clothes off because the drug raises the core body temperature. He also said it brings on hallucinations, they experience agitation and they can show anger and violence to themselves and others.“They are just not in their right frame of mind,” he said.
Maureen Petrie, program director at the Herkimer County Prevention Council, said through a community partnership with several organizations, including the poison control center, the council hopes to see a county-wide ordinance that outlaws the sale and possession of bath salts.
“There’s a misconception that people have, that if they were legal, how bad can it be for you. When it first came out, they were in convenience stores. They were really accessible. Now that’s changing,” she said.
The village of Herkimer recently outlawed the possession of synthetic drugs and arrested a Tebbs Head Shop employee on June 28 for a violation of the new law.
Police also seized 200 packages of the bath salt known as glass cleaners.
Information posted on the Herkimer County Prevention Council’s website includes statistics from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which showed one in nine (11.4 percent) of twelfth graders used Spice or K2 (synthetic marijuana) in 2011. This made it the second most commonly abused drug among seniors.
Livermore said this is becoming “a very serious community wide issue.”
Meanwhile, the mother in Mohawk said she hopes others can now see the devastating effects bath salts can have on a user and his or her family.
“My grandchildren have lost their father. [His fiancee] has to go through a pregnancy alone. I’ve had to watch his brother and sister try not to be angry about what happened, but they are angry. There’s sadness, confusion. Their loss is going to affect our family for the rest of our lives,” she said. “He will never get to hold his grandchildren. He won’t be at his daughter’s wedding.”

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