Bath salts topic of EPD discussion

Bath Salts: Evart Police Officer Michelle Gebben discusses the drug known as bath salts and how the drug looks, where it comes from and what affect it has on the human body. (Herald Review photo/Karin Armbruster)
Bath Salts: Evart Police Officer Michelle Gebben discusses the drug known as bath salts and how the drug looks, where it comes from and what affect it has on the human body. (Herald Review photo/Karin Armbruster)

EVART — Disbelief spread across the faces of the residents who attended the June 27 community watch meeting as they learned about harmful and ever-growing drug called bath salts.

Using a presentation of slides filled with background, statistics and video content, Evart Police Officer Michelle Gebben discussed the need for awareness on the topic, stressing the dangers bath salts can cause for the user.

”This is not a Detroit thing, this is not a Chicago thing. This is a local thing,” Gebben said. “This is happening right here.”

Bath salts is the street name for drugs containing a powdery substance called mephedrone that creates effects similar to cocaine and amphetamines. They typically come from China and are sold in small packs of 500 milligrams under names including White Rush, Bliss, Vanilla Sky, Ivory Wave and more. The substance can be injected, ingested or inhaled. People who use bath salts suffer from symptoms including chest pain, paranoia, hyper-alertness, seizures, delirium, extreme anxiety, violent behavior, liver failure and more, Gebben said.

In the past two months, the drugs have been found in high amounts in the county, according to Osceola County Prosecutor Tyler Thompson, who also spoke at the meeting. He said bath salts are popular because they are less expensive than other drugs, give a similar high to methamphetamine and users who are caught receive less of a charge compared to other substances. The compound found most in the county is Alpha-PVP, which is a stimulant in certain types of bath salts, he noted.

Gebben said although mephedrone and compounds with a base of mephedrone is against the law, chemists who create the drug are creating new compounds faster than the law can dub them illegal. In addition, the packages will normally carry the disclaimer stating “not intended for human consumption,” as to help fend off prosecution.

Thanks to the law that took effect in July of last year, bath salts have been removed from store shelves. However, the drugs can still be purchased from dealers or from the

Internet.

In addition, she discussed some recent occurrences of bath salts in Michigan, including a large drug bust and almost 200 calls regarding the drug in Midland County in 2012 and earlier this year. Also, a police raid in Bad Axe that happened last year uncovered thousands of capsules containing the powder and more in a home-made lab that was the first documented bath salts lab in Michigan.

Gebben said one of the best ways to fight against the use of bath salts is to be educated about the substance and talk about it with family members and friends, encouraging them to be prepared with an answer of “no” when the drug is offered. Knowing the signs of drug use and keeping a lookout for them among loved ones is a way to help, too, she added.

”Bath salts are at your high school, they’re at your middle school, they’re at the park, the baseball game,” Gebben said. “Let’s try to take care of the problem before our kids start using them.”

The next public Evart Community Watch meeting, which will discuss methamphetamine, will take place at 5 p.m. on July 27 at the Evart Fire Hall.