Like law enforcement officials and legislators in many other states, ours in West Virginia spent several years playing catch-up with drug pushers.
Using new chemicals and combinations of them, the pushers tried to stay one step ahead of the law by producing narcotic and/or hallucinogenic substances not specifically banned by statutes. Innocent-sounding names were used to market the drugs, which were sold openly.
Police are cracking down on "bath salts" distributors, sending some to jail. However, dealers continue to tinker with the product so that it does not contain the ingredients which were previously illegal.
Recently, two separate incidents in Parkersburg involving bath salts sent four people to the hospital. Luckily for these individuals, all survived the incident, police said.
No one was arrested, but police do think the bath salts came from the same dealer.
"The West Virginia State Police Crime Lab has had a tough time keeping up with the continuously changing chemical compounds," Sgt. Greg Collins of the Parkersburg Police Department said. "Meaning, officers could seize a bath salt derivative that has not yet officially been declared illegal."
A drug can be declared illegal after undergoing the required testing and documentation by the crime lab, he said.
Because of the increased scrutiny and the news laws passed, the number of drug overdoses reported from "bath salts" in West Virginia declined from 250 in 2001 to 48 last year.
That is the good news. However, as. Sgt. Collins said, these drug "chemists" have shown they are not going out of business, but are trying to stay a step ahead of law enforcement. The challenge for both law enforcement and legislators is to find a way to prevent this from happening.