PUNXSUTAWNEY — Police and public officials are warning the public about the dangers of ingesting bath salts or smoking synthetic marijuana as a way to get high, because the results could be fatal.
Last Monday, Punxsutawney Borough Council passed a motion to send letters to all businesses in the borough, asking them not to sell either of the latest over-the-counter substances that are being used as synthetic drugs.
Police Chief Tom Fedigan said bath salts in a crystallized form and synthetic marijuana have a grassy
appearance, similar to natural marijuana. It is smoked and often referred to as K-2. Other names include White Horse, Kamikaze, Ivory Wave, Purple Wave, Red Dove, Blue Silk and Vanilla Sky.
The growing problems of addiction to bath salts — which may be taken orally or smoked — is the same as cocaine or meth, Fedigan said.
To the best of his knowledge, there are no Punxsy businesses that sell bath salts, Fedigan said, and that these drugs are not natural — they’re all synthetic.
Fedigan said Mayor Jim Wehrle proposed to council about possibly creating an ordinance that would ban the sale of these over-the-counter substances.
Council instead voted to send the letter to all businesses, in lieu of waiting for an ordinance to be prepared, he said.
“When it is marketed as a bath salt, it is legal to sell,” Fedigan said. “The intent (of users) is not to use this for any other reason than to obtain a high.”
Fedigan said the manufacturers are marketing these bath salts, sold in packets mostly at tobacco stores, as “energizing aromatherapy” which may sell from $20 to $30.
“Initially, when you start to take these drugs, the individual will feel euphoric and more energetic,” he said. “These chemicals can cause hallucinations, paranoia, rapid heart rates and suicidal thoughts, similar to the feelings that a paranoid schizophrenia patient will experience.”
One of the compounds contained in these synthetic drugs is methylenedioxypyrovalerone, also known as MDPV.
Ultimately, the people who take these drugs can become suicidal, Fedigan said, citing a case in Blair County, where the long-term use of bath salts led to a suicide.
“The people who market this stuff are labeling these bath salts as not for human consumption,” he said. “That’s how they’re getting away with selling it, by labeling in that manner.
“There are ways to skirt the law. The intent in selling these are for one purpose and one purpose only — to get people high,” Fedigan said.
The short- and possible long-term effects are unknown and could cause a myriad of potential problems, some of which could turn out to be irreversible.
K-2 has been sold and marketed as incense or potpourri, which is commonly referred to as “spice,” he said.
“When store owners are selling these substances, it is being sold under the false pretense as incense,” he said. “Ingesting or smoking it has become a trend, and it is very dangerous.”
Fedigan said his officers are being trained to look for these packages. They can identify them during traffic stops and further investigate if the operator is under the influence of these products.
“At this point, these substances are still legal to purchase,” Fedigan said. “However, it is the misuse of them that is causing a lot of problems, and in many cases resulting in death.”
A ban on the sale of bath salts, salvia divinorum and synthetic marijuana is awaiting Gov. Tom Corbett’s signature.