Special Report: Bath Salts - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Special Report: Bath Salts

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It's a drug so dangerous, experts compare it to ecstasy. And surprisingly it was legal to buy here in Georgia until last week. Governor Nathan Deal signed a bill last Tuesday which outlaws bath salts.

Still, law enforcers and medical personnel worry they still have a fight on their hands. It's a little packet of powder that can take its users on a wild ride.

"Becoming very ill, Influenced intoxicated," said Maj. Bill Berry, Albany Dougherty Drug Unit Commander.  "It makes you hallucinate real bad. Makes you real paranoid. There's even been some deaths reported from the use of this."

And until recently, bath salts were a little known substance to law enforcement throughout South Georgia.

"We started having it here. We're not sure if they were actually buying it here or in other cities or other counties."

Kevin Lee, Commander of the Thomas County Sheriff's Office Drug Unit says about a year and half ago he noticed the problem moving in from Florida. "A lot of was coming out of Tallahassee and Panama City."

But the drug which is marketed with the warning not for human consumption was also flying under the radar of lawmakers. Making bath salts and the chemicals which make up the substance, legal.

"It did not fall into any kind of controlled substance act. The chemical compound structure of it was so that they did not fall into cocaine and methamphetamine. It had pieces of different types of chemicals," Lee said.

The main chemical component, MDPV is a psychoactive drug that acts like a stimulant. And when bath salts came on the market, it wasn't long before the side effects began showing up in emergency rooms across the country.

"It causes increased heart rate, increased blood pressure, sweating, it can put at risk of having a heart attack or a stroke. Those are the physical effects of it," said Phoebe Putney Hospital E.R. Physician Dr. Alfred Woodard. 

But the psychological effects like paranoia and competitiveness sent lawmakers scrambling. Earlier this year, Mississippi passed the Crenshaw Act, banning the sale and consumption of bath salts in the state after a sheriff's deputy was gunned down by a man under the influence of the drug.

Georgia would soon follow the lead of at least a dozen other states where the substance is outlawed.

While some U.S lawmakers want to make a federal ban, in Georgia is now a scheduled one substance like LSD or ecstasy.

The MDPV or methadone is a scheduled one controlled substance which makes it a felony.

Without a nationwide ban bath salts are still available on the internet, but law enforcement is cracking down on anyone who attempts to buy online.

"If you bought it and had it shipped to you, you're in violation of the law. It's not just the possession of it. It's the sale of it."

And for those who will continue to use the drug here is a warning:

"Certainly there could be long term side effects. We just don't know what those are yet because this drug is so new," said Dr. Woodard.

And until more laws are passed, it is still legal in some parts of the country. Officials at Phoebe Putney Hospital say they have treated at least one person for side effects associated with bath salts.

But because the drug is so new, there is no test to determine if the drug in a person's system.