Packaging warns against the human consumption of synthetic stimulants, marketed as bath salts. However, the product is commonly ingested and Maricopa County in particular has seen an increase in the abuse of bath salts since 2010.
Photographer: Photo Courtesy of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration
PHOENIX - The number of people using a dangerous designer drug called bath salts appears to have gone up exponentially in the Valley and across the country, according to a new report.
Banner Health Poison and Drug Information Center released a new report Thursday showing a major increase at a call center serving the Phoenix area.
According to the most recent statistics available, there were 247 calls made to the Banner Health Poison and Drug hotline in 2011 about people who had taken or snorted bath salts.
Twenty-eight of those calls were related to someone 18 years old or younger.
It's a major jump compared to the year before. In 2010, there were only two calls total in the Phoenix area.
This year, there were 65 calls about exposure to the bath salts by May.
The trend is increasing nationally. The American Association of Poison Control Centers had 6,138 calls in 2011. That's up from 304 in 2010.
Stephanie Siete with Community Bridges, an addiction recovery center in Phoenix, says people can find the drug easily.
She said the drug creates meth-like highs and hallucinations.
Bath salts, which are not the same as bath salts used for soaking in the tub, is a synthetic drug made of multiple chemicals.
It's a white powder that is typically snorted or ingested.
"They're called bath salts because they look like regular bath salts," Siete said.
Chemicals in the drug have included mephedrone, MDPV, and methylone. These three were banned last year by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency.
In Arizona, Governor Jan Brewer signed a bill into law back in March to ban key components in bath salts, but Siete said the makers of drugs have found loopholes.
"The chemicals are constantly changing. The law can't keep up, so to speak," Siete said.
Siete said there needs to be changes in wording to include chemicals that could be used as substitutes.
Alberto Gutier with the Arizona Department of Highway Safety agrees.
Gutier said bath salts are one of the "most dangerous drugs" to hit the streets, adding that Arizona lawmakers are working on new legislation that is expected to be introduced in January.
Siete said the effects of bath salts can be detrimental to the entire community. In Miami last month, police said a man who may have been under the influence of the drug attacked a homeless man and chewed up his face. The attacker was then shot and killed.
"Imagine jogging and running into someone (who is high). You don't know how they're going to react," Siete said. "People should take action."
If you'd like more information or need help, you can contact Access to Care, a 24-hour hotline, at 877-931-9142 or the Banner Good Samaritan Poison and Drug Information Center hotline at 1-800-222-1222.
Copyright 2012 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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