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Despite the fact that North Carolina outlawed the deadly synthetic drug known as “bath salts” on June 1st, it is still being sold. Police in Fayetteville searched seven businesses on Friday, Aug. 19th, and seized hundreds of packages of the so-called “designer” drug.

The scientific name for the chemical is methylenedioxypyrovalerone, or MDPV. Another drug that may be contained in bath salts is mephedrone. The substance can be smoked, snorted or injected. Bath salts are sold blatantly as a substance used to get high, with names such as Bliss and White

Rush, and are also sold under the guise of being plant food.

In an earlier blog I described the shocking psychotic reactions bath salts cause, examples of which include high speed chases, suicides, and murder. Other examples I’ve since found include a man who climbed a flagpole and jumped into traffic, a man who broke into a monastery and stabbed a priest, and a woman who scratched herself “to pieces” over several days because she thought she had something under her skin. Physically, even tiny amounts can cause an overdose, and the reaction can cause death.

The drugs can also have long-lasting effects, and in cases observed in emergency rooms large doses of sedatives cannot bring the patients down from their high. As the director of a poison center in New England said, “Some of these folks aren’t right for a long time.”

The Carolinas Poison Center took more than 300 calls about bath salts in the first 6 months of 2011.

In Fayetteville, police began a sting operation about the time the N.C. law banning the drugs went into effect. Friday’s sweep targeted seven “smoke shops.” The seized substances will now be tested at the state crime lab. If proven illegal, owners and clerks could face criminal charges.

At one of the shops, the Lucky 7 on Bragg Boulevard, police seized packages of a product called “Hypno Tryp.” The owner claimed the substance is compliant with North Carolina law, and that he has documentation from the company he bought it from proving it. “I don’t have a lab where I can test stuff … if it’s good or bad,” he said. “I trust the sales person that comes and sells it to me.”

That sounds like simple callousness and greed. A store owner who sells something called “Hypno Tryp,” the name of which obviously shows it is intended to produce some kind of high, has little concern for the safety of his customers. I can’t believe this one is not aware of the dangers that have been laid at the door of this drug.

According to Fayetteville police Sgt. Todd Joyce, the search warrants executed Friday are “just the tip of the iceberg,” and more searches will be done within the coming weeks.

“Other businesses will start to see that if you are selling these substances and chemical compounds that are in violation based upon what General Assembly enacted, you’re subject to search warrant and seizure of that and criminal charges,” Joyce said.

It is good news that law enforcement in at least one city is cracking down on bath salt sellers. This had become a serious problem in our state. In fact, in April 2011, Carolinas Poison Center was second only to Louisiana in number of calls about bath salts. I hope such investigations are under way elsewhere.

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