By Teri Walker–
When Arizona Governor Jan Brewer outlawed the synthetic marijuana drug “spice” in February, she said she was “happy that the legislature moved quickly … to outlaw these dangerous substances.” But just as fast as the Arizona Legislature moved to ban “spice,” also known as “K2,” drug makers moved to keep forms of the drug on the market.
Navajo County Sheriff K.C. Clark said since the new law that pushed “spice” off store shelves took effect, drug chemists have been tinkering with “spice” ingredients to skirt regulations regarding the product.
Prior to the legislation, “spice” and similar substances were marketed as a legal alternative to marijuana. Sold by smoke shops and other retailers, the product is basically a plant-like material that is sprayed with a combination of chemicals and substances, and smoked. According to the governor’s office, the chemical compounds can be up to 700 times more potent than the active ingredient in marijuana, and can result in seizures, stroke, anxiety, visual disturbances, racing heartbeat and elevated blood pressure.
Sheriff Clark said when “spice” was legally on store shelves, the sheriff’s office was seeing many cases of kids ending up in Summit Health Regional Medical Center in Show Low with seizures.
Now, he said, undercover officers are finding there are “spice” alternatives that are cropping up in the county that are modified using different chemicals to achieve the same “high”–and the same dire results for some individuals who use the chemical compounds.
Because there is no shortage of creativity among street chemists who continue to create legal, if dangerous, means of getting high, Clark said it’s likely there will continue to be amendments made to laws like those outlawing “spice,” lining out ever-growing lists of chemicals and additives that are not allowed to be cobbled together and sold. Another designer drug that has recently emerged on the market is “bath salts,” a synthetic stimulant that is nowhere near as benign as its name might imply.
While packaged with the name “bath salts” and labeled “not for human consumption,” the powdered compounds have no real value as a bath salt or other bath product. The only known purpose is to be consumed as a recreational drug, by smoking, injecting or snorting.
“Bath salts” are typically sold in small packages, ranging in cost from $40 to $100 per gram. A gram consists of approximately eight to 40 doses.
Sold with names like “Ivory Wave,” “Russian River” and “Hurricane Charlie,” the drug is made with substances that are not regulated by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), but because of the drug’s significant and dangerous adverse effects, the compounds are coming under federal scrutiny.
“Just because you can legally sell something doesn’t mean it’s morally right,” said Clark.
“Bath salts” are causing serious health consequences, bizarre behaviors and death.
Increasingly, law enforcement officials are responding to calls about “Bath salts,” and people are landing in hospitals with hallucinations caused by using them.
Reports of incidents, while trickling in at the beginning of the year, are now increasing rapidly across the nation, according to the DEA.
The effects of “bath salts” are comparable to methamphetamine abuse, according to poison control centers.
The powders can contain methylenedioxypyrovalerone (also known as MDPV) and mephedrone. According to the DEA, the abuse of “bath salts” has been linked to death, suicide, homicide, self-inflicted wounds and child endangerment.
At this time, it isn’t known if “bath salts” are addictive. The acute toxicity and neurological side effects are the biggest concerns about the new drug.
Several states have banned the sale of “bath salts,” but there is not yet a federal ban.
In Arizona, proposed legislation is being drafted to prohibit the sale of designer drugs with compositions “substantially similar” to illegal drugs like heroin, marijuana and cocaine.
“People are using these drugs because they can get around urine tests, but still get high,” said Clark.
“I hate to see us become a nanny state,” said Clark, “but when an 18-year-old can go into a store and buy something that can kill him, or cause him to irreparably harm or kill someone else, you’ve got a real problem.”