PARKERSBURG - Nearly a year after bath salts were banned in West Virginia, the synthetic drug epidemic has become less widespread in Parkersburg.
While cases of bath salt usage have decreased since the passage of House Bill 2505 last year, police said the recreational drug is still a concern.
"We are still seeing the synthetic drugs, but not as frequently as we were at the onset of the epidemic," said Sgt. Greg Collins, with the Parkersburg Police Department. "The new laws have driven the bath salts underground, and they are now being sold like cocaine, crack, heroin and other drugs, instead of over-the-counter."
Often touted as synthetic cocaine, bath salts are a powdered substance containing the active ingredient Methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDVP), which can cause increased heart rate and blood pressure, seizures, severe agitation, hallucinations, paranoia, panic attacks and delusions.
With the ban, prices of bath salts have been driven up, Collins said.
"They were sold fairly cheaply in the beginning, which caused widespread abuse. In most cases today, bath salts are being sold for the same price as cocaine and crack, and in some cases more," said Collins. "The increase in price, compounded by fear of the drug, has helped our situation."
The severe side effects of bath salts have created a fear of the drug, even by frequent drug users, police said.
"After just one use, even the most experienced drug users advised addicts to stay away from bath salts. Authorities have seen deaths, near-deaths and extreme illness associated with the drug," said Collins.
"The paranoia associated with bath salts was unlike anything we have seen; it can make people jump out of windows; it made a mother believe her child was the devil."
In the last year, the Parkersburg Narcotics Task Force has gathered intelligence regarding the chemical makeup of bath salts. Investigations have revealed that some may be altering the recipe and selling the drug under different names.
"We believe bath salts are shipped into our area, either from out of the country or other states," Collins said.
Police warn that bath salts are highly addictive.
"The level of addiction here is unbelievable, and dealers can make a lot of money selling their product," he said. "When you see the destruction these drugs can cause, and talk face-to-face with the people arrested for selling these drugs, it's clear that they don't care about anyone but themselves."