A highly-addictive synthetic drug that goes by the name bath salts has made its way into the greater Saint John area and police are warning people of its dangers.
Drug analysis tests by Health Canada recently confirmed 818 pills seized from a home on Golden Grove Road in September contained methylenedioxypyrovalerone, or MDPV, a psychoactive compound used to make bath salts, said Detective Sgt. Craig MacDougall, of the Rothesay Regional Police Force.
"As far as I’m aware, this is a first for the Atlantic Canada region, or at least in New Brunswick, a seizure of this," he said.
The drug — which causes hallucinations, paranoia, violent behaviour, increased heart rate and high blood pressure — is already common in the United States, including Maine.
"The city of Bangor has in the last year been inundated with bath salts and it’s caused lot of upheaval there," said MacDougall.
Just a few months ago, the Bangor police chief told CBC News the community of 32,000 was seeing between one and seven cases a day of people high on the drug.
As of December, the department had responded to more than 400 incidents involving the drug and at least three people in the area had died as a result of using bath salts.
"So it’s an extremely dangerous drug," with devastating health and social implications, said MacDougall.
"Because of the hallucinations, paranoia, the health emergencies, it taxes your services in your city — the emergency rooms…It puts pressure and strain on the whole health service, it puts pressure and strain on your emergency services, the ambulances, fire department, the police," he said.
"There's extreme danger when people are in that excited delirium, having paranoia, hallucinations, they'll either harm themselves or harm other people, harm our police officers."
May be confused with ecstasy
Another concern is that the pills police seized were manufactured to resemble ecstasy, branded with innocuous-sounding names, such as Ivory Snow, Ocean Burst, Stardust and White Dove, said MacDougall.
"So we could have people out there consuming what they think is ecstasy and in fact they’re consuming bath salts," he said.
"Ecstasy is a drug that’s not very good as well, but bath salts are even worse."
Ecstasy, which is also a synthetic drug with hallucinogenic properties, commonly comes in tablet form.
Bath salts, also known by the name mephedrone, is often sold in a white powder form that can be snorted, injected, smoked or swallowed.
It can be ordered legally and inexpensively over the internet in the United States. It is also sold in some small shops as actual bath salts or plant food.
Although bath salts are illegal in Canada, some of its ingredients have not yet been classified or categorized with the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, said MacDougall.
"It was kind of slipping through the cracks as far as law enforcement or seizure purposes," he said.
"I’d expect in short order this particular ingredient will be regulated and controlled and it will make it much harder for it to be imported and manufactured and distributed."
It’s too soon to say how widespread bath salts are in the Saint John region, said MacDougall.
"We’re not naïve to believe that we made this seizure, that we’re not going to see it again or that somebody else isn’t going to try to bring it in," he said.
"All we can do is deal with the hand we’re dealt and see what happens. If we get further information, evidence that it is arriving, we’ll react accordingly and do everything we can to nip it in the bud."
Meanwhile, two males who were arrested during the raid on Golden Grove Road, where cocaine, marijuana and prescription pills were also seized, are expected to face trafficking charges next month.