Marquette County has recently placed a ban on bath salts that have been used to obtain a cocaine-like high. The ban comes after at least one death and several hospitalizations occurred as a result of ingestion.
The bath salt provides a relatively inexpensive and easily available alternative to more notorious street drugs like crystal meth and cocaine. Users snort, swallow or inject the drug to produce the desired results. The salts are marketed under the names White Rush, Ivory Coast, Purple Wave and Vanilla Sky, among others.
Chief Assistant Prosecutor Matt Wiese said the salts came to his attention when a law enforcement officer inquired about the drug after he stopped someone he believed to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
“(The officer) had learned they were under the influence of a substance called White Rush, which is sold as a bath salt,” Wiese said.
Wiese said the side effects of the drug include elevated blood pressure, sweating, sleep deprivation and seizures, among others.
“One individual self-reported that he hadn’t slept in six days,” Wiese said, “which can lead to extreme anxiety, paranoia, agitation, you name it.”
According to Wiese, the use of the drug is pretty much across the board and not specific to either teens or adults.
“The individual that died was in his 30s, and we had a report of a fifty-some-year-old woman who used it,” Wiese said.
He added that those who use a product that is advertised as a bath salt and putting it into their body, whether it’s through snorting or eating it, is not a wise thing to do as people don’t know what the side effects will be.
Those who are caught with the drug may be subject to criminal prosecution, which according to Wiese could result in the very minimum of probation and mandatory rehabilitation services.
Health Promotion Specialist Lenny Shible said that, because of the relative newness of the drug, he wasn’t aware of it until reports of abuse of the drug came out in Houghton in late January.
“The fact that there’s not a lot of material out there on this right now suggests that the experts are still learning about what this drug can do,” Shible said.
One of Shible’s concerns is for the students who will jump in and try something just because they heard of it.
“I would love to know and have a chance to talk to the first person who made the decision, ‘Well, gee, maybe if I crush this up and snort it, or smoke it, somehow ingest it, it will do something that will give me the desired effect that I want,’” Shible said.
Shible likened buying the bath salts to buying other types of drugs like marijuana, cocaine or heroin, and not being 100 percent sure of what the contents will be.
“People are not used to using pure forms of those drugs, and if they get their hands on something that’s a pure form when they’re not used to it, it can lead to overdose and possibly be fatal,” Shible said.
He is also concerned about the potential long-term effects of the drugs that students may run into down the road, and said that students should be aware of what they put into their bodies.
“The decision to try something new that becomes the rage tends to snowball quickly through the population that’s interested in experimenting,” Shible said.
The Back Room had been a supplier of the salts until word of the ban came in. They were available in 250mg packages and carried a retail price of $37.50. The Back Room manager reported that once word of the effects spread, their sales doubled. When the ban took effect on Friday, Feb. 4, The Back Room was forced to remove the product from their shelves.
The salts have become a problem across the country, as well as the U.K., with states pushing for outright illegalization of the product.