Dangerous drug catching on in rural N.S.

Health officials in northern Nova Scotia are warning about a dangerous street drug that users may not even know they're taking.

Health officials in northern Nova Scotia are warning about a dangerous street drug that users may not even know they're taking.

The drug, known as "Bath Salts," is taken in powder form. It has the same effect as amphetamines, stimulants that speed up the central nervous system.

Dr. Heidi-Marie Farinholt of Aberdeen Hospital in Pictou County said the designer drug, with an innocent sounding name, is one of the most addictive drugs out there.

She said it kills and it's easy to buy online.

"It is extremely dangerous. So you take cocaine and multiply it by about a factor of 10 and you have this," Farinholt said.

"What we saw in Bangor when these things first came out they were so easy to get that the people who were pushing OxyContin, Percocet and Dilaudid on the street had to drop their prices and were a little bit torqued that they were losing the market."

The negative effects of the drug include a dangerously elevated heart rate, paranoia, violent outbursts and hallucinations.

Greg Purvis, of Addiction Services at the Pictou Health Authority, told CBC News doctors at the Aberdeen Hospital are seeing two to three cases per week.

"Folks are ending up in the emergency room with hallucinations, delusions, psychosis, very bizarre behaviour, a lot of combativeness, a lot of agitation, a lot of aggression," he said.

He worries the drug will become more popular.

Officials say the drug is sometimes mixed with other drugs, such as marijuana.

"The user may not know what they are taking," Purvis said.

Dr. Robin Taylor, medical officer of health for those regions, said they've heard that "space weed," which is marijuana laced with the powder, is being sold to buyers who don't know what they're getting.

Purvis said some people may be fooled by the name and think they're taking a drug that is safe.

The drug is not the same as Epsom salts.

Bath Salts have been banned in the U.S. and several European countries but the drug is not currently regulated by Health Canada.

"I think it gives Health Canada the opportunity to look at this drug and get it on the controlled substances list, prior to it having similar impacts right across Canada," Purvis said.

Farinholt said she has seen the effects of violence and drugs but that Bath Salts are among the worst.

"My training was done in Baltimore, Md., which is one of the roughest places to work in the United States. Saw a lot of drugs, a lot of guns, and I have to say this drug scares me more than any of that ever did," she said.