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Bath Salts: “The Tombstone Drug”

By Erin Maxson

MEDFORD, Ore. — Doctors and police officers say “bath salts” users have the most severe and violent highs they’ve ever seen. The appearance of bath salts in Southern Oregon is delayed compared to the rest of the country.

The drug is based on an African plant called “khat”, but Dr. James Hammel of Rogue Valley Medical Center says the drug is far from natural.

“Bath salts are entirely made by underground chemists,” explains Dr. Hammel.

These chemists have come up with hundreds of formulas, though three main parent compounds continue to dominate, and offer the only option for testing.

“The only tests that are available are blood serum and urine test and those take several weeks to come back,” says Dr. Hammel.

The marketing of the designer drug as “bath salts”, under various names, with a label “not for human consumption”, has allowed people to get around the law, consuming the drug in any number of ways.

“Bath salts typically look like a crystal and powder form they can be incorporated into a lot of other things,” states Dr. Hammel, “We have seen them also looking like little tiny balls or pellets. People are using them everywhere from smoking them, to snorting them, to shooting them up.”

Although the name and appearance aren’t intimidating, the resulting high is, even for police and medical staff.

“We are finding with the limited contact with people that are under bath salts that we’ve had use of force incidents that it seems like a tazer is not effective,” stats Brett Johnson, with MADGE.

“They do not respond to our typical use of anti-psychotics,” says Dr. Hammel, “Across the country, what is being described is that these patients don’t respond to anything.”

The DEA moved the three parent compounds in bath salts to a Schedule One drug; meaning, they contain no medicinal benefits and ultimately declares them illegal on a temporary basis. Oregon and California prohibit the sale of bath salts. Dr. Hammel and local law enforcement say they believe this drug could be a larger problem than meth for Southern Oregon.