Presque Isle police tackle latest recreational drug problem

Posted June 02, 2011, at 7:07 p.m.

PRESQUE ISLE — Police are looking for ways to curtail a new drug problem that the general public may not even be aware of involving a product designed to relax the user but can lead to death if misused.

Presque Isle Police Chief Matt Irwin said the new drug is commonly sold as bath salts and, as such, is not illegal to sell. It’s the misuse of the product that is raising concern.

“Our interest as a Police Department is in helping the community to understand this is a real problem and the problem is here in town. I have no interest in embarrassing anyone, but there is a local store that is currently selling these items. There are no age restrictions or limits on sales of these products,” said Irwin, noting the establishment is selling “bath salts” that are then “snorted, smoked or swallowed” by the user to “obtain a high.”

“In extreme cases, such products have been linked to drug-induced deaths,” said Irwin, noting two recent deaths in Aroostook County may be associated with the use of such products.

“I am told there are two deaths in The County believed to be the direct result of these drugs — one is a car crash in Madawaska and the other was a reported overdose here in Aroostook,” said Irwin.

Irwin shared data from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency indicating that although these substances are new to the United States drug market, they have been popular in Europe since 2007.

“The sudden appearance of synthetic cathinones on the designer drug market in the United States is of great concern. Some of the products found to contain this synthetic include: Ivory Wave, Vanilla Sky, Energy 1, among others,” he said.

According to the DEA data, the American Association of Poison Control Centers reported that in 2010, poison centers took 298 calls about synthetic cathinones. As of March 2011, poison control centers have received 1,241 calls relating to these products — that’s four times as many calls in the first three months of this year compared with the calls received for all of last year.

The products are manufactured in the form of capsules, tablets and powders and can be purchased at various stores, as well as on the Internet. The packages of these commercial products usually contain the warning “not for human consumption” — most likely in an effort to circumvent statutory restrictions for these substances.

Irwin said the majority of the substances analyzed in “bath salts” have been placed on controlled substance lists in several foreign countries, but that no such limitations have been placed on them here in the United States.

“There is emergency legislation being drafted and-or considered to outlaw this stuff but as of yet, it has not been enacted,” he said.

According to the DEA data, bath salt products “are known to produce certain side effects, some of which are quite severe. Side effects include: increased heart rate, agitation, diminished requirement for sleep, lack of appetite, increased alertness and awareness, anxiety, fits and delusions, as well as nose bleeds. More serious side effects include: muscle spasms, kidney failure, seizures, aggression, hallucinations, severe paranoia and panic attacks,” among others.

Irwin stressed the importance of businesses not carrying such products.

“They’re technically legal to sell, but in the interest of being a good neighbor in the community, we’re asking businesses to help prevent the misuse of such products by just not carrying them,” said Irwin. “We’re not telling anyone how to run their business; we’re just asking folks to use a little common sense to help keep these products from being misused.”

Anyone with information about the misuse of these products or any criminal activity is asked to contact the Police Department at 764-4476.

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