The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration announced Wednesday that in response to the “growing use of and interest in synthetic stimulants sold under the guise of ‘bath salts,’’’ the agency was invoking its emergency scheduling authority to temporarily ban three synthetic stimulants used to make the drug.
Bath salts became illegal in Maine at the beginning of July, but those caught with the drug are issued a civil offense and those dealing face only a misdemeanor charge.
That soon may change if the DEA has its way. The emergency ban is due to go into effect in a month or so and will make the stimulant a Schedule 1 drug, the same class as heroin and LSD.
“This action was necessary to protect the public from the imminent hazards posed by these chemicals,” the DEA announced. “This action makes possessing and selling these chemicals or the products that contain them illegal in the U.S.”
The Maine Legislature also may stiffen bath salts penalties when it meets later this month.
Bath salts usually contain mephedrone or methylenedioxypyrovalerone, also known as MDPV. Those two stimulants and Methylone are what the DEA is banning.
Thirty-three states, Maine included, already have banned mephedrone, MDPV and similar synthetic drugs or are working to make them illegal. The United Kingdom, Ireland and other European countries also have banned the substances.
People need to know the scary truth about the synthetic drug bath salts and laws banning the dangerous stimulant must be strengthened, two local doctors said during a round table discussion held Wednesday in Brewer as part of the fourth annual Summit on Addiction Recovery.
The lab-made stimulant, which surfaced on the streets of Bangor in February, often is sold under the street name “monkey dust.” Its use has led to numerous instances of psychotic and paranoid behavior, the local doctors said.
“It’s almost like a little epidemic,” Dr. Anthony T. Ng, medical director of psychiatric emergency services at The Acadia Hospital in Bangor, told the group, many of whom are drug treatment specialists.
“When we get folks in the ER, they’re out of control,” said Dr. Scott Thomas, who works in the emergency room at Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor and has seen the results of the drug firsthand.
Bath salts make “the brain go crazy,” Ng said, adding that users of the drug become psychotic, paranoid, agitated and hallucinatory, making them hard to deal with.
With large numbers of bath salts users in Maine, especially in the Bangor region, there is a need to have laws that provide more than “just a slap on the wrist,” Ng said.
“There are people who take one hit and are under the influence for days,” he said.
Others have reported using bath salts and days later still having psychotic episodes, Thomas said.
“It’s frightening,” he said.
Another scary fact, Thomas added, is that “we don’t know what the long-term effects are.”
The discussion on bath salts was just one part of the drug recovery summit, which was held at the Brewer Auditorium and titled “The Secret is Out: People Do Recover!”
Several discussions focused on community support, families in recovery, health and treatment options, prevention and intervention.
The keynote speakers were Stephen Gumbley, director of the Addiction Technology Transfer Center at Brown University, and Dr. Scott Davis, director of Addiction Medicine at Penobscot Community Health Care in Bangor.
This year’s summit highlighted individuals who have reclaimed their lives and are living happy and healthy lives in long-term recovery. It also honored the treatment and recovery service providers who make recovery possible and promoted the message that recovery is possible.
There are two upcoming forums for community members, health care providers and law enforcement officials to discuss bath salts in the Bangor region.
An education session is scheduled for 7 p.m. Sept. 14 at Husson University’s Gracie Theatre, and a bath salts conference, co-hosted by Acadia and the Bangor Police Department, is scheduled for the first week of October.