Why Vt. police are worried about 'bath salts' - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Why Vt. police are worried about 'bath salts'

Northfield, Vermont - July 19, 2011

"It's a cheap drug," said Northfield Police Sgt. Chuck Satterfield.

Part of Satterfield's job is to surf the web looking for the latest drug trends.

"Drugs are a huge problem in the state of Vermont from marijuana all the way up through," he said.

Now a new designer drug has caught his eye.

"You can buy a gram for 50 bucks," he said.

They're called bath salts and their ingredients are completely legal in Vermont. The white, powdery substance looks similar to what you dump in the tub.

"They are not being sold as bath salts. They are being sold to give you a high," said Dr. Mark Depman of Central Vermont Medical Center.

Abusers are sniffing, snorting, smoking and injecting the chemical compound. Police say this methamphetamine-mimicking drug is dangerous.

"It gives you a high similar to cocaine, so that euphoria feels good but as soon as it wears off the paranoia and suicidal thoughts that follow are just extremely dangerous," Satterfield said.

Satterfield says he's happy he knew about the synthetic stimulant before his standoff with a man at a Northfield Falls trailer park. Daniel Cubitt, 32, high on bath salts and other prescription meds, armed himself with a sword and a hunting knife. He threatened to kill police and himself before Satterfield talked him down.

"This is the first episode I've heard of in Vermont," Satterfield said. "I'd rather not meet someone on the bath salts again."

"People get compulsions to hurt others," Depman said.

Depman runs the ER at CVMC. He says the hospital's seen two cases this month.

"They can cause someone to become almost acutely psychotic. They become agitated, really violent," Depman said. "Very high heart rates, very high temperatures. People get temperatures of 104, 105, 106 and what this can do is actually cause muscle breakdown in your body."

The stimulant is manufactured overseas and there's no regulation over its chemical makeup here in the U.S. Right now there is no federal or Vermont state law making the drug illegal. But just last week the governor of New York signed legislation banning bath salts and he has the support of other New York lawmakers.

"They are the same thing as harmful illegal drugs and the kids should stay away from them. I've moved that they be banned," said Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-New York.

Police hope lawmakers in Vermont will hop on the banning bandwagon.

"Because it's legal we can't just be reactive instead of proactive. We're going to have to respond to situations like this and unfortunately it puts a lot of people in jeopardy," Satterfield said.

We called a few smoke shops throughout the state. Some had never heard of the drug and others said they were completely sold out. For now, as long as "not for human consumption" is printed on the label, Vermont stores are free to sell the drug.

Jennifer Reading - WCAX News

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