Bath salts, the synthetic designer drugs commonly found in smoke shops and some gas stations, have been receiving much attention from legislators and law enforcement lately, but also from local residents.
Cazenovia Chief of Police Michael Hayes reports that the department has recently dealt with a number of bath salt-related incidents, with users ranging in age from 18 to 60. While this issue seemed prevalent in other Madison County communities, Hayes warns that it is also in Cazenovia, and asks that residents report any suspicious occurrences immediately.
“This is PCP on steroids. It is a highly addictive substance. If you’re dealing with anyone on bath salts, report it immediately. These people are dangerous,” Hayes said. “We’ve had an ongoing domestic incident here in the village that resulted in a few arrests, and we’ve got some investigative leads [for other users in the village] right now. I want people to know that it’s not a bother to call us, that’s what we’re for. I’d rather respond to call and find out it’s nothing – at least be made aware of it – than find out three days later that people saw someone acting strange.”
Bath salts, which have nothing to do with hygiene or relaxation, were banned throughout New York state last summer, but have been repeatedly showing up in retail stores. The substance is disguised as glass cleaner, potpourri and plant food, with colorful images and “not for human consumption” often found on labels. On Tuesday, July 10 State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman filed 12 civil lawsuits against 16 shops across the state, including one in Syracuse, for selling the synthetic drugs.
“As soon as the [psychoactive] ingredients are banned, producers change the chemical configurations in the substances, and then new, legal products are released. These drugs will bring users’ internal core temperatures anywhere from 104 to 120 degrees. These are very powerful amphetamines,” Hayes said. “For some reason, [Madison County] seems to be the epicenter of New York state for bath salt incidents – and that’s just what’s being reported. We have to do something.”
So far this year, 273 calls regarding bath salts have been logged by the Upstate Poison Control Center. In 2011, the organization fielded 118 calls regarding the drug.
Hayes said he believes the drug should be ruled as a controlled substance, and police officers should arrest the perpetrators for felony possession anytime they respond to an incident where a subject is high on bath salts. The violent behavior, paranoia and hallucinations that users experience put both officers and civilians at risk.
On June 12, a Munnsville woman, reportedly naked and high on bath salts, assaulted her three-year-old and family dog before State Police were called to the scene. The woman was unfazed by pepper spray, and was only able to be handcuffed after a trooper deployed his taser. After being taken into custody, the woman suffered a heart attack and later died at Oneida Healthcare.
On July 6 in DeRuyter, Madison County Deputies arrested 34-year-old Nicole K. Campbell who, according to police, was believed to have been under the influence of bath salts. She was charged with endangering the welfare of a child, resisting arrest, reckless endangerment and obstructing governmental administration — all misdemeanors — after she brandished a knife and threw it toward officers who were responding to a trespassing complaint.
On July 10, the Madison County Board of Supervisors called on Governor Andrew Cuomo and state Legislature to pass “meaningful and effective legislation” against the sale and use of bath salts. On July 20, a panel of medical experts, law enforcement personnel and emergency service providers will discuss the growing problem with the drug, in hopes of developing a plan of action to suppress its use. The forum will be held from 10 a.m. to noon in the Commons Room at Rural Metro in Syracuse.
To report knowledge of local bath salt use or suspicious behavior, contact the Cazenovia Police Department at 655-3276. Reports can also be logged with the Madison County Communications Center, at 366-2311. In the event on an emergency, residents are urged to call 911.
Pierce Smith is editor of the Cazenovia Republican. He can be reached at 434-8889 ext. 338 or firstname.lastname@example.org.