Bath salts. News of the drugs seems to be coming up a lot, with police linking a whole host of crimes to its use. Our Kat De Maria spoke with experts and tells us what they say is behind the phenomenon.
SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Ever since a bizarre, cannibalistic incident in Florida, the country has been abuzz with news of bath salts. At YNN, the press releases are accumulating.
"Anytime we have an agitated patient who's violent now, it seems we're saying that's bath salts. Is it bath salts? It's so hard to say," said clinical toxicologist Alexander Garrard of the Upstate Poison Control Center in Syracuse.
Experts say that's because the term "bath salts" is really a catchall for a number of chemical compounds, which are constantly changing. And as such, there's no test for them.
Police share anecdotal evidence, people who say they tried the drugs, like in the case of a Brewerton man who drowned after he jumped into Oneida Lake. Experts say bath salts are not that new.
"They were used as an experimental program for making drugs, medicine. Now they've turned black market, let's say," said Dr. Ellen Vachon, a substance abuse trainer.
Bath salts have gained popularity and publicity over the past year or so.
Most of the incidents in Central New York have been in the Mohawk Valley. Last month, 35-year-old Pamela McCarthy died after assaulting her child and being tased by police. Recent incidents involved a 39-year-old man allegedly threatening to cut out his own heart during his fourth visit from police related to bath salts.
The drugs hit home in Syracuse earlier this week, when 31-year-old Jesse Claflin allegedly held a knife to a child's throat. Experts say stories like these will likely lead to there being more.
"The worse a drug is, from a drug point of view, the better the drug is. So more people are dying and having near-death experiences, the more the addict is going to chase that drug," Vachon said.
We started to wonder if all of the coverage by us and other news agencies might be playing a role in the prevalence of bath salts. The experts we spoke with say yes and no.
"On one hand, it's very important to let the public know about these substances because it's really only through public effort and the public voice we're able to get legislation passed. But on the same token, it's like free advertising for these bath salts," Garrard said.
No bath salts were found in the system of the now-infamous Florida man. But experts say that doesn't mean they weren't there, for the reasons discussed. They say as much as the public might be tired of hearing about bath salts, the cycle will continue, getting the drugs into the public awareness and then hopefully doing something about them.
There will be a forum educating the community about bath salts Friday at Onondaga Community College's Storer Auditorium from 10 a.m. until noon.