AMSTERDAM - Vanilla Sky. Ivory Wave. Lady Bug Attractant.
Sellers can call an ever-growing bagged bliss known as "bath salts" anything they would like, but authorities and medical experts on Thursday said they'll keep fighting to make the products' sale illegal and inform doctors, nurses and emergency responders on how to deal with patients who use the drugs.
Deborah Anguish, a nurse with the Upstate New York Poison Center and the State University of New York Upstate Medical University, was among the speakers at St. Mary's Healthcare, where the dangers of new designer drugs, including bath salts and salvia, were discussed.
Deborah Anguish of the Upstate New York Poison Center speaks about designer drugs at St. Mary’s Healthcare in Amsterdam on Thursday.
The Leader-Herald/Bill Trojan
Both drugs are sold over the counter in the area, and both have been linked to crimes and dangerous behaviors in the area, including a suspicious death June 4 in Mayfield, where the naked body of a woman was found on a dead-end road.
Anguish said she has handled several cases involving the drugs, and emergency rooms consult her about how to deal with patients suffering the side effects of these drugs.
She told Thursday's audience of emergency technicians, emergency department officials, behavioral health experts and nurses about what the drugs can do to users, and said the manufacturers' constant name changes make the drugs difficult to track, as the names may be unregistered.
"It seems to be worse, from what we're hearing, and part of that being worse is that it's not a set chemical like cocaine is," Anguish said. "With cocaine you know you're getting the certain chemical compound. With these bath salts, you don't know. It can be an array of whatever that chemist decided to cook up or make up that day."
Amsterdam Fire Department Lt. Tony Agresta, who attended the presentation, said the list of various names on bath salts makes surveillance more challenging.
"The difficult part is we don't know the chemical make of it, let alone the name," he said.
Anguish said the most common cause of death from bath salts is elevated body temperatures, which can reach and sustain 109 degrees for up to two days.
"Some of the effects could be a chemical reaction, because that chemical is not very well compatible with our brains," she said. "Or we're having different chemical reactions in our brain that is making us feel worse, especially when they come down from it, that has been described with methamphetamine and cocaine. It's worse coming down off of it, so that they crave that drug more than they would other stimulants and more side effects than you would see with other stimulants."
Anguish said users experience depression during downtime, making the cravings a reoccurrence every few hours.
Other complications can include heart attack, the loss of blood to the brain, skin discoloration and cool or cold extremities that could lead to amputation.
A version known as Bromo Dragonfly has specifically been linked to those ailments. Permanent brain damage has also been considered, but Anguish said more studies are needed to verify that claim.
She said bath salts can be ingested, injected through the veins or sprinkled and smoked on cigarettes and marijuana.
Officials say bath salts cost about $18 per gram, making it more accessible than cocaine and LSD, which can command $100 or more.
Anguish also said cathinone, the active stimulant, is extracted from the khat plant found in northwest Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. She said users of the plant would chew on the leaves, but it is rumored that Russians converted the stimulant into the drug it is today.
Tricia Green, St. Mary's emergency room nurse coordinator who organized the event, said there will be four more presentations dealing with the potentially fatal drugs.
"It's important that we get this information out to all of our local EMS providers, law enforcement and to us as the hospital taking care of these patients in our community," Green said. "It's very important to have this information readily available. It continues to change every day, so we'll be having them back again to give them updated information. We need to know how to help these patients in our community."
Anguish also discussed the synthetic marijuana product known as salvia. She said the drug has a potency 100 times higher than the active psychedelic stimulant in marijuana, as well as a craving factor 40 times greater than THC. The blue option of the K2 brand of salvia has reportedly led to kidney failure, she said.
The synthetic drug has also shown recurrent psychotic episodes similar to schizophrenia, but Anguish said it is hard to differentiate between the two, as users are usually in the same age range - 17 to 22 - that doctors look for the signs of the mental disorder.
John Borgolini can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org