Bath salts: Rise of a drug

Eric Sparling
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Dangerous psychotropic drug not yet illegal

AMHERST – It ain’t your momma’s spa treatment.

Most of us had never heard of “bath salts” a couple of weeks ago. Our introduction to it has been spectacular, to say the least. Claims have been made that the cannibalistic Miami attack that left one man (the assailant) dead and another in critical condition was triggered by a bad trip on bath salts.

Greg Purvis, director of addictions services for Cumberland and Pictou counties, said the drug is “at (the) high end of the risk continuum.”

New Glasgow has been a national hotspot for the emergence of the substance. He said they’re seeing one to three clients a week. In one instance, bath salts were used to spike marijuana.

“We haven’t seen much, though,” said John Rossong, who works for addictions services here in Amherst. He’s aware of only one local case.

Why the disparity?

“It’s primarily dealer driven,” said Purvis. When a new substance hits the street, it may only be introduced by certain dealers in specific locales.

The key ingredient of bath salts is MDPV, said Purvis, which has been around for decades. The bath salts formulation first appeared, primarily in Europe, a few years ago. The first case he was aware of in Nova Scotia was last August.

“It’s called bath salts because (of) its appearance,” said Purvis.

The director didn’t know if there are recreational users who haven’t experienced decidedly negative effects.

“We tend to see the folks who have the adverse reaction,” he said.

The adverse reactions are considerable. Purvis said MDPV is related to methamphetamine and ecstasy.

“It feels great for four hours…it’s the aftermath that has us concerned.”

Combative, aggressive and paranoid are some of the words he used. He said drugs that produce a rapid high followed by a large crash are typically addictive. And he said the speed with which users start to suffer profoundly negative consequences from regular use is rapid.

He wants to send out a “buyer beware” message to users of recreational drugs: they’re formulated by street chemists and dealers, with no quality control. He’s had reports of bath salts being sold as other products.

Purvis is pleased the federal government is moving quickly to outlaw MDPV.

“We have a very neutral stance,” he said, on drug prohibition. But he said bath salts are a harmful substance.

“There would be circumstances where a charge…could be laid,” said Deputy Chief Ian Naylor, Amherst Police Department.

Bath salts aren’t an illegal substance – yet – but depending on the situation, a dealer could face criminal sanctions.

“We’ve had no seizures,” said Naylor. He also expressed his appreciation for prompt federal action, and called bath salts: “pretty scary stuff.”

He said enforcement is just part of the solution. He thinks the reported dangers will be credible to would-be users because they’re coming predominantly from the medical community. Even users have spoken out, he said.

“Who do they believe? The majority of people would heed these warnings.”

Organizations: Cumberland, Amherst Police Department

Geographic location: AMHERST, Miami, Pictou New Glasgow Europe Nova Scotia

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Recent comments

  • Joe Shmoe
    June 14, 2012 - 10:35

    Health Canada should consider changing its name to Death Canada for all the good it does Canadians under the Harper regime.

  • anon
    June 11, 2012 - 10:57

    ;quote:Purvis is pleased the federal government is moving quickly to outlaw MDPV:end quote; this crap should have never made it through customs to start with ...imo as most of it comes from India ... if this were a bad batch of tylenol it would be pulled the same day .... its been on the shelves for months now . Health Canada ??? ya right ... incompetence at its best