VERONA—Nearly 80 people gathered at the Verona Fire Hall Monday night to learn about the effects that bath salts and meth are having on their community.
Councilman Fred “Fritz” Scherz said he hosted the “Bath Salts and Meth Forum” to inform the public and answer any questions residents might have.
“The statistics for Oneida and Onondaga County are the highest right now in New York state for incidents on bath salts; that’s scary stuff,” he said. “There is so much I don’t know about it and I thought there are probably a lot people out there who might not know. But to do something like this and make it a success you have to have a panel of experts.”
That panel of experts included, Paramedic Ken Boone, New York State Police Capt. Frank Coots; Doc. Alexander Garrardat from Upstate Medical University; Sylvan Beach Assistant Fire Chief Rick Johnson; Samantha McCarthy, a representative from the Center of Family Life & Recovery, Oneida County Undersheriff Robert Swenszkowski and Paramedic Bill Vineall.
One community member asked why people have such a wide range of responses when they take bath salts.
Garrard explained that there are a number of variables that need to be taken into account such as the unpredictable reactions of each person and the frequent change in the compounds used to make the drugs.
“One way to think of this is that it is essentially chemical Russian roulette,” he said. “You never really know when the next time you use may be your last time, because there are so many unknowns.”
Garrard said that bath salts can be snorted, smoked, or put in water and injected using a needle. Bath salts stimulate both the brain and the heart.
The usage of the drugs can cause convulsions, seizures, chest pain, sweating, hallucinations and violence.
It bring on suicidal thoughts that are sometimes put into action. It can also cause heart attacks, permanent brain damage and hallucinations that can last for days or weeks.
Upstate Poison Control Center received more than 330 bath-salts-related calls this year in the 54 counties it covers. Oneida County is one of the areas generating the most calls.
The experts said the drug can harm more than just the users.Innocent bystanders, police, paramedics, family members and tax payers, all pay a price.
“The local law right now… the highest penalty is $1,000 fine and a year in jail,” said Undersheriff Robert Swenszkowski. “Each day that the violation continues there will be a separate and distinct offense where a separate penalty will apply. Meaning that selling and processing on a Tuesday is separate from selling and processing on a Wednesday, which will be tried for another year and another fine.”
Swenszkowski said that the current law isn’t perfect and he hopes that in the near future another more definitive criminal law will be passed by the state.
Clinton resident Mary Beth King came to the forum as a concerned citizen and health teacher at Clinton High School; she plans on using the information she learned at the meeting to help educate her students this fall.
“I’m trying to keep on the cutting edge so that our students are informed about the risks and the cost to society,” she said. “Not just financial but social and family costs, as well as making informed decisions.”
Throughout the forum experts explained that the drug has no specific demographic; reported users range from ages 16 to 60 with a variety of economic and education backgrounds.
King noted those facts are shocking, “it can happen to anyone,” she said.