DOVER, N.H. — Although marketed as “bath salts,” this increasingly popular drug isn’t being used in the tub, but rather is sending people to the emergency room for paranoid delusions, rapid heart rates and high blood pressure.
The Tri-City area is just starting to see the drug show up. It’s being sold with street names like Drone, Ivory Wave, Lunar Wave, Monkey Dust, Vanilla Sky and White Rush. It is sold as fine white or off-white powders and resembles typical bath salts.
People are purchasing the bath salts online, said Dover Sgt. Scott Pettingill. Area shops and convenience stores don’t seem to be carrying the item in the area, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t around.
“It’s not like people in the headshop with the K2,” he said of the synthetic marijuana that began showing up earlier this year. “It’s pretty unique.”
He said he believes the drug is labeled “bath salts,” because that is what it essentially looks like.
Pettingill said he has spoken with area hospital officials who said they have seen cases in the emergency rooms. However, Dover Police have not had any reports come into their department.
There isn’t a lot of information about the drug, Pettingill said, which makes it difficult to know what happens to those who use it. However, the side effects can be severe.
“There are quite a few nasty side effects,” he said. “It sounds like people are having a heart attack, their blood pressure is super high and they are sweating. I don’t know what type of high comes from it.”
The so-called bath salts are methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV), a stimulant that doctors say acts similar to Ecstasy when taken.
P.A.C John Smith of the Portsmouth Regional Hospital said he believes it is the “younger crowd” — those 30 and under — who tend to use the drug.
“It’s has a chemical similar to Ecstasy in that Ecstasy is a cross between LSD and speed,” he said. “It’s like Ecstasy where people will be all energetic and they sometimes have hallucinations and paranoid delusions. Your blood pressure goes up.”
Users aren’t placing it in their bath water, as the name suggests, but rather snorting, smoking and injecting it.
“It has some addictive properties in it that people that use it enjoy it and crave it again,” Smith said.
At Portsmouth Regional Hospital, physicians have seen about two to three cases a month this year, Smith said.
“The couple I’ve seen are pretty minor,” he said. “They are super anxious.”
What the emergency rooms have been seeing are the “extreme” cases where people have become paranoid.
“It’s much like the PCP of the ’80s,” he said. “Violent, combative and require heavy sedations. Some people have had a trip and can be paranoid for even days, months or years after. There are people that do it and don’t get back to normal very well.”
Since the bath salts are sold packaged, he believes people probably think they are safe, but they’re not.
Like area police, Smith said he believes people are getting the drugs online, since many stores in the area have refused to sell them.
“Even some of the headshops that typically sell drug paraphernalia, most of them are reluctant to carry them,” he said.
New Hampshire lawmakers have not yet banned the drug, but some states have started to put bans in place. Lawmakers in Maine passed a bill last spring making bath salts illegal in the state. After many reports in the Bangor, Maine area, police have said the problems have reached “epidemic” proportions there.
Earlier this year in Maine, a 31-year-old man allegedly imagined people were crawling out of his mattress and coming to kill him after taking bath salts. After panicking, paranoia set in and he grabbed his assault-style rifle and ammunition and ran out of his apartment and disappeared into the streets until Bangor police officers found him later standing on a street corner.
Earlier this year in Pennsylvania, a couple high on bath salts tried to stab the “90 people living in their walls” while their five-year-old daughter was in the house, according to a news report.
Wentworth-Douglass Hospital officials have said they have definitely seen a few cases, but hospital Spokeswoman Noreen Biehl said the hospital doesn’t seem to be collecting data on cases that have come into the hospital.
Rochester Police Capt. Paul Callahan said his department hasn’t been called to any bath salt-related cases, but he does know people are using them in the Tri-City area.
“We haven’t seen anyone under the affects of it, but we have heard through some of our pipelines that it has been distributed in Rochester,” he said.