At a glance …
• U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration put an emergency ban on synthetic stimulants Sept. 8.
• The substances, commonly called bath salts, are designed to mimic the effects of cocaine and methamphetamine.
• Residents and businesses have until 30 days after Sept. 8 to get rid of the drugs before possessing or selling them becomes a felony offense.
• All Crimes Enforcement Team task force officer: The drugs are in use locally.
“Even in young and healthy people, these drugs are very dangerous.”
— Andrew Hughes, a family practitioner at The Memorial Hospital Medical Clinic in Craig
The idea of bath salts may bring to mind colorful crystals that add fragrance to a long, hot soak.
But, it’s also become a common name for a dangerous cocktail of synthetic stimulants made to replicate the effects of hard drugs.
Until recently, the drugs were not controlled and could be purchased legally in stores.
They “could be sold at any location without regulation,” including truck stops and convenience stores, said Jim Schrant, resident agent in charge at the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s Grand Junction office.
But, that’s about to change.
On Sept. 8, the DEA put an emergency ban on bath salts.
Residents and businesses have 30 days from that date to get rid of the drugs, Schrant said.
After that, possessing or selling the drugs becomes a felony offense, Schrant said, and could be punishable with prison time.
The drugs appear to be less popular in Northwest Colorado than other regions, he added. But, that doesn’t mean the area has been untouched by the relatively new drugs.
“It’s definitely being used in the area,” said Ryan Hess, an officer with the All Crimes Enforcement Team, a drug task force that operates in the Yampa Valley.
‘The worst of both’
Bath salts contain synthetic chemicals, including mephedrone, according to the DEA’s website, that are designed to have the same stimulatory and hallucinatory effects as cocaine or methamphetamine.
“So, it’s really the worst of both being packaged together in this controlled substance being sold in a convenience store, and that’s where it really started to become a significant concern to us,” Schrant said, adding that the drugs also are often marketed to children and young adults.
Early this month, the DEA established the ban because the substances were deemed a threat to public health and safety, he said.
And, according to one local physician, the drugs can have serious side effects.
They can lead to paranoia, chest pains and elevated blood pressure, said Andrew Hughes, a family practitioner at The Memorial Hospital Medical Clinic in Craig.
The drugs can be particularly dangerous for people with conditions like heart disease and high blood pressure.
However, “Even in young and healthy people, these drugs are very dangerous,” Hughes said.
ACET officers haven’t encountered bath salts firsthand, said Hess, who was assigned to ACET from the Moffat County Sheriff’s Office.
But, he added, “There’s definitely reliable street-level intel that says that it’s being used.”
At the local level, the drugs appear to be used mostly at parties instead of being widely distributed like methamphetamine or cocaine, he said.
And, the drugs are available in Moffat and Routt counties.
“It is sold locally,” he said, adding that stores in Craig and Steamboat Springs have carried bath salts, although these products were marketed as not for human consumption.
In Northwest Colorado, reported cases of emergency room visits caused by the drug have been few.
Hughes and Dave Higgins, clinical lead for TMH’s emergency department, said they had not seen any cases associated with the drugs.
Schrant didn’t have statistics on incidents connected to bath salts in Northwest Colorado, but he said his office is aware of only a few regional reports of emergency room visits caused by the drug.
Matt Beckett, Moffat County director of the Grand Futures Prevention Coalition, said he hasn’t heard of any cases connected to the drug, either.
“But that doesn’t mean it’s not going on,” he said.
He added that the drugs are difficult to track because they can be sold online.
The drugs are relatively new, “so we’re just learning,” Beckett said. “We have no resources to go about effective prevention or anything yet.”
However, if the substances become more prevalent in Moffat County, the agency will launch presentations to educate parents and the community, he added.
The DEA has a similar goal.
Although bath salts will soon carry a felony charge, Schrant said the main purpose behind the DEA’s ban is to educate the public about their danger.
“The important message that we want to get across is, if people have these (drugs), they want to get rid of them,” he added.
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