Last Modified: Monday, July 16, 2012 2:33 PM
In late June, Louisiana State Police intercepted a package of bath salts being shipped to a mother and her two sons in Lake Charles.
The package, which contained three kilograms of bath salts, was worth about $134,000, state police said.
Although bath salts first showed up in Southwest Louisiana in 2010, the drug is not prominent locally, law enforcement officials said.
Robert Broussard, a detective with the Calcasieu Parish Sheriff’s Office, said his department hasn’t bought any off the street, which leads him to believe the drug is not readily available in the area. However, the Sheriff’s Office has recovered the drug during traffic stops and other police investigations, he said.
District Attorney John DeRosier said his office is prosecuting some bath salts possession cases.
DeRosier said marijuana, cocaine, prescription pills and methamphetamines continue to be the area’s biggest drug concerns.
DeRosier said he believes Calcasieu Parish is making progress against illegal drug use — in 2007, there were 56 deaths from drug overdoses in Calcasieu Parish. That figure dropped to 28 in 2008, 26 in 2009 and 21 each in 2010 and 2011.
He attributed much of that to legislation that cracked down on “pill mills” in Louisiana and Texas.
As that legislation slowed the availability of prescription pills, the prevalence of “manufactured” drugs began to increase, he said.
DeRosier and Broussard stressed the dangers of bath salts.
“The effects of the drug are similar to that of PCP, where the user feels an extreme body temperature, which a lot of time causes them to take their clothes off,” Broussard said. Other side effects include “hallucinations, paranoia and extreme aggressiveness, which makes (users) very difficult when encountered by law enforcement.”
While a typical powder cocaine high lasts about an hour, the high from bath salts can last about five hours, Broussard said.
In a well-publicized case in Louisiana, 21-year-old Dickie Sanders, the son of two physicians, shot and killed himself after sniffing “Cloud 9,” a variant of bath salts.
Bath salts are synthetic methamphetamines — similar to synthetic marijuana (cannabinoids) which is often sold as potpourri or plant food, DeRosier said.
Despite being called bath salts, there is no relation between the drug and actual bath salts, DeRosier said — the name is simply a marketing tool by “the bad guys.”
On Monday, President Barack Obama signed into law a bill that prohibits several synthetic drugs, including marijuana and bath salts.
In June 2011, Gov. Bobby Jindal signed a law making it illegal to possess or distribute synthetic marijuana and bath salts.
DeRosier said one of the major dangers of the drugs is that manufacturers often tailor their recipes to get around new laws — which means users often don’t know the ingredients of the substances they are taking.
“If you have five bags of bath salts, you may have two or three different chemical compositions,” DeRosier said.
“This stuff is not regulated by the FDA, it’s not intended for human consumption, so most people don’t know what they’re getting when they purchase it,” he said.
While 90 percent of the illegal drugs in the United States enter the country through its southern border, bath salts worked its way over from Europe, Broussard said. The drug was manufactured in Europe because cocaine is expensive to ship from South America, which produces the majority of the world’s cocaine, Broussard said.