They won’t scent a steamy tub with lavender, but they could cause organ failure and profuse bleeding.
That’s right — bath salts have come to Snohomish County.
An Everett man was named in federal court last month as the suspected ringleader in the mass distribution of “bath salts,” a street name for chemical compounds that mimic hard drugs. Bath salts also were linked to a homicide and suicide during a police chase near Olympia in April.
People started calling the concoctions “bath salts” to circumvent federal drug rules. The chemists switch up the formulas to stay ahead of the law.
The drugs came of age a little after “K2” or “Spice,” street names for a drug commonly described as synthetic marijuana.
That’s a misnomer, said Mark Brinkman, a Lynnwood police officer and drug recognition expert. Substances that people call synthetic marijuana are much worse and far less predictable, he said.
The Everett Police Department sent out a training bulletin to officers about “bath salts” and similar drugs a few weeks back, Sgt. Robert Goetz said.
Everett’s crime prevention team spent Thursday visiting stores they thought might be sought out by bath salts distributors, Goetz said.
“Our approach is we try to be proactive at the distribution locations, letting them know the liabilities they have in selling this type of product,” he said.
The department also is sending out educational materials to neighborhood groups, Goetz said. Everett police haven’t seen many issues arise from the drugs so far, but they want people to know about the dangers.
As of late June, the Washington Poison Center had seen about 76 calls involving bath salts this year. The center had one call about bath salts in 2010, said Dr. Thomas Martin, associate medical director with the center.
They had nearly 90 calls about Spice last year, and about 70 so far this year, he said.
The state has placed an emergency ban on bath salts, said Donn Moyer, a spokesman for the state Department of Health. It is expected to become permanent.
The ban makes it illegal to make, sell, deliver or possess the drug, Moyer said. The ban was filed April 15. A similar rule for Spice went into effect in January.
Bath salts and Spice are more toxic than typical recreational drugs, said Martin, the Poison Center doctor.
The side effects of bath salts include higher blood pressure, a higher heart rate and higher body temperature. They can cause people to become delirious, delusional, combative and sometimes psychotic. The effects can last for days.
The drugs aren’t regulated, so there’s no set “dose,” he said. The concentration and the cocktail of chemicals varies from packet to packet.
Because the drugs are so new, there’s no research about their pharmacology and how they affect the body long-term, he said.
Some people have tried to get high using normal bath salts, Brinkman said.
That doesn’t work.
Rikki King: 425-339-3449; email@example.com.
Get help, answers
If you or a loved one has taken bath salts or similar designer drugs or have any questions, call the Washington Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222.
The state Department of Health department keeps answers to frequently asked questions about K2/Spice and bath salts here: http://tinyurl.com/dohbathsalts