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While alcohol remains the drug of choice for residents of Calhoun County, a new designer drug may be gaining popularity.
“People will find anything to alter their consciousness,” Carol Meyer-Niedzwiecki, prevention director for the Substance Abuse Council, said during a noon meeting Tuesday to discuss recreational drugs called bath salts.
“But this has nothing to do with Calgon bath salts,” said Joe Kuchenbach of Psychological Consultants in Battle Creek. “They make it sound like it’s something to put in the bath and inhale with the hot water.”
But the drugs are different than commercial bath salts used in the bath tub.
They contain a number of synthetic chemicals that are strong stimulants which can cause increased heart rates, chest pains, dizziness, delusion and panic attacks as well as seizures, hallucination, sleep deprivation and extreme anxiety. The drugs can cause liver and kidney failure and death.
Meyer-Niedzwiecki and Kuchenbach told a group attending a SAC meeting about the drug, that while statistics showing the number of people using bath salts are not compiled for the county, officials think it is increasing.
According to a new report from SAC, 49 percent of Calhoun County residents said they used alcohol in the past 30 days while five percent said they used marijuana and one percent said they used methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin or inhalants. Results from a survey of 479 people didn’t include results for bath salts.
The drugs began to surface two or three years ago, Kuchenbach said, and by early this year Michigan had reports of 65 people being treated in emergency rooms statewide and one person dying after using the drugs.
Kuchenbach said the drugs are sold in head shops, convenience stores and over the Internet although Michigan has enacted a ban on sales along with several other states.
It can be sold as pond water cleaner or plant food and often is labeled not for human consumption.
There is a long list of possible names including White Rush, Red Dove, Zoom, Loco-Motion, Kush Blitz, White Lightning, Cloud 9, Purple Wave and Wet N Wild.
It can be snorted, taken orally with water, injected, inserted rectally or vaginally or smoked.
Kuchenbach said the drugs are hard to detect in the body and can be addictive but are popular because of relative low cost, easy access and the high feels good.
“The high feels good and they are not hearing about deaths as much yet,” Meyer-Niedzwiecki said. “Some people desire to alter their consciousness.”
“And it has been under the radar for a long time,” Kuchenbach said.
He said while use of the drug apparently remains small in this area, he said first responders may have encountered people without realizing they have used the drug.
“They are becoming more aware of it now,” he said.
Trace Christenson can be reached at 966-0685 or [email protected]