Bath salt drug crackdowns not fizzling out

By Anna Yee

June 5, 2012 Updated Jun 6, 2012 at 12:01 PM CDT

CENTRAL ILLINOIS -- While new information surfaces from the recent face-eating incident in Miami, reports say the crazed attacker showed symptoms of synthetic-drug use, symptoms local health experts say they've seen people suffer from for quite some time.

"They have euphoria just like some of the other drugs, but then they experience paranoia, hallucinations, sometimes violent behaviors, suicidal tendencies," said Vicki Lavick, a counselor at the Illinois Institute for Addiction Recovery in Peoria.

Bath salts aren't what they suggest.

They're either a powder or crystal used to mimic the effects of cocaine or meth.

Popularity has sky-rocketed over the past year or so.

According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, bath salt reports rose from about 300 in 2010 to 5600 in 2011.

Rene Sandoval, the local Narcotics Enforcement Group Director, says that increase is due, in part, to cheap over the counter sales.

"You'll find these at head shops, tobacco stores, different fuel stops, gas stations, places like that. They shouldn't be selling those. If they do, it's illegal."

Sandoval says now both selling and possessing bath salts are considered felonies in Illinois.

Other states are pushing for that standard too.

In Lansing, the Michigan House Judiciary Committee called a special meeting Tuesday morning to address regulating dangerous designer drugs.

"Bath salts, it sounds so innocent and we are finding how horrible they are," said Michigan State Rep. John Walsh, (R)19TH DISTRICT, Committee Chair.

Dangerously little research exists about the long-term effects of bath salts.

But, experts say they hope to increase prevention before any one finds out the hard way.

Starting this month, a new state law grants limited immunity to people who call 911 to report a drug overdose, even if they are the drug users.

The law has exceptions, but lawmakers say it is meant to curb the number of overdoses, by reducing fear of facing criminal charges.

Illinois the fifth state in the nation to pass the law.

If you or someone you know needs help with drug addiction recovery, you can call the Illinois Institute for Addiction Recovery at 1-800-522-DRUG (3784).

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