Jan 6, 2011 11:41 PM by Maddie Garrett
Synthetic drugs masqueraded as bath salts have hospitalized hundreds in Louisiana and even caused several deaths and suicides. But as of Thursday those drugs and the chemicals used to make them are now illegal.
Right after Governor Bobby Jindal banned the fake bath salts, law enforcement teams across Acadiana hit the streets visiting stores that once sold or currently sell the synthetic drugs. They were giving store owners a strict warning, get rid of the newly illegal substances or prepare to be charged with distribution of a Schedule 1 drug.
The news that fake bath salts were banned was especially a relief for one Acadiana family, whose son and brother is now in rehab after getting hooked on the powdery substance. They don't want their names released, but say it was difficult to see their loved one suffer from using this drug.
"He was very paranoid, very anxious, he couldn't sit still," said the mother. "It's very hard, I try not to cry but it's very hard."
But Thursday was a triumph for this family, when they found out fake bath salts were banned. Louisiana Poison Control Director Mark Ryan said they first started noticing problems with the bath salts in August 2010. And as the cases started increasing in frequency and severity, they knew they had to do something.
"We went from boom the first case to banned in less than 100 days," said Ryan.
The substances in the fake bath salts mimic cocaine or methamphetamine and can cause everything from heart problems to severe anxiety, hallucinations and suicidal thoughts.
"In almost 20 years I've been in the poison control center, this is the worst substance I've ever been involved in," said Ryan.
Now stores are being warned to get rid of it or face charges. And anyone caught with the drug will go to jail.
"This is now, there is no grace period, you know this is it, they can be charged. And so there will be no grey areas. There's not going to be "oh maybe you didn't know about it." It's an illegal substance and it will be treated as such," said Maj. Ginny Higgins, with the St. Martin Parish Sheriff's Office.
Louisiana is the state with the highest number of cases by far, totaling 165 calls from people in crisis after snorting, smoking or injecting these dangerous substances. Kentucky has the second most calls recorded at 23. Ryan said that's because they believe the chemicals to make it are coming in through New Orleans' ports.