DOVER-FOXCROFT, Maine — It never ceases to amaze Dr. David McDermott the substances that people willingly put into their bodies in an attempt to get a high.
Those substances include the latest hallucinogenics known as bath salts. While the “salts” have benign-sounding names, such as Vanilla Sky and Ivory Wave, they cause users to lose their filters to control their actions, according to McDermott, medical director of Mayo Regional Hospital’s emergency room. Users present bizarre behavior, are agitated and sometimes hallucinate, so there is a high risk for personal injury, he said Friday.
While Bangor has been plagued with these designer drugs in recent months, Piscataquis County is not immune to its dangers.
“It is certainly not as extensive as it is in Bangor, but they are here in our community and we are seeing their use increase,” McDermott said.
That is why McDermott is partnering with the Piscataquis Public Health Council to provide a community forum on these drugs and their dangers from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 21, at Foxcroft Academy.
“I hope we fill the gymnasium,” McDermott said.
At the forum, Anthony T. Ng, medical director of psychiatric emergency services at Acadia Hospital in Bangor; Chris Gardner, an agent with the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency; and McDermott will discuss what the new drugs are, how they affect users, how to recognize if someone has taken the drug and what people can do if they suspect someone is using them.
McDermott said he doesn’t want to see Piscataquis County’s drug use numbers increasing.
In 2010, the Northern New England Poison Center received only one call about bath salts. From January to July this year, the center has fielded 87 calls, most of which were from health care facilities, according to Colin Smith, the poison center’s administrative associate. Each case represents a patient with confirmed or suspected contact with bath salts, he said Friday.
The breakdown of calls from counties during those six months were as follows:
The counties were unknown for two of the calls that were received.
Other statistics also indicate that the problem is increasing. The center received only one call during the first two months of the year compared with eight in March, seven in April, 23 in May, 30 in June and 18 in July.
Some of those on bath salts and other illicit drugs who visit the emergency room have to be put in restraints because of the safety problems they can cause.
“It becomes an issue for us because we have to worry about the safety of the patients here in our emergency department and the safety of our staff,” McDermott said. He said local law enforcement sometimes helps the emergency staff with unruly patients.
About two weeks after the forum, the Piscataquis Public Health Council will partner once again with McDermott and local law enforcement to present individual sessions in local high schools. He said the council is working on a program that would involve an adolescent clinician from Acadia Hospital meeting with students to talk about bath salts. Programs will be offered to high schools in Milo, Dexter, Dover-Foxcroft, Guilford, Greenville and possibly Corinth, according to McDermott.
“Our goal is to prevent people [from] feeling like they’ve got to experiment,” McDermott said.
Both the public and health care professionals can call the Northern New England Poison Center at 800-222-1222 for information about bath salts, or visit nnepc.org.