PARKERSBURG - The Parkersburg Police Department is warning residents of the dangerous drug, contaminated bath salts.
Detectives are investigating two bath salt overdose cases from Tuesday and Wednesday mornings, but the drug is no stranger to local residents.
Officials responded to a home on the east end of Parkersburg in reference to a possible suicide Tuesday around 9 a.m. They discovered four individuals, all likely to have overdosed on the drug bath salts, officials said.
Police said a 33-year-old male sitting in a chair in an incoherent condition, a 25-year-old female being incoherent and combative, a 21-year-old female sitting in a chair in an incoherent condition and a 41-year-old male passed out in the bedroom were transported to Camden Clark Medical Center. All survived the incident, police said.
Wednesday around 7 a.m. officers responded to a business on Camden Avenue in south Parkersburg in reference to a suspicious person. Observers advised that a 32-year-old male was running around the business, trying to get in the employees door, acting strange and refusing to leave, officials said.
The man was eventually transported to CCMC by an officer for evaluation.
Police are not releasing the names of those involved.
Police believe the two "bath salt overdose" cases from Tuesday and Wednesday are linked, possibly having been sold by the same dealer.
Investigators are exploring the possibility that contaminated bath salts have entered the local drug scene and are attempting to find the origin of the drugs. Officials said no criminal charges have been filed in either incident.
Sgt. Greg Collins with the Parkersburg Police Department said city officers have been dealing with bath salts, like most of the country, for a while.
"I think our first major bath salt investigation was a case worked by Parkersburg police detectives and the Parkersburg Narcotics Task Force on Smokin Joe's on Seventh Street," Collins said. That occurred in June 2011.
The symptoms and reactions people receive from bath salts can differ.
"There really is only one 'kind' of bath salts," Collins said. "The chemical make-up can be and is often slightly changed by manufacturers of the drug."
The drug is "largely" the same substance in the end, Collins said.
Collins said addicts crave the drug in such a way they will return to using it even after having near-death experiences.
"Some experts have stated that bath salts contain many of the worst effects of several different drugs," Collins said. "Hallucinogenic-delusional properties, extreme agitation, superhuman strength, combativeness, as well as the coveted hyper-addictive properties of meth and cocaine."
The National Drug Intelligence Center refers to synthetic cathinones (bath salts) as products that are "packaged and marketed as authentic commercial products for beauty, home or relaxation." These items can include bath salts, herbal incense, plant food, plant fertilizer, insect repellent, pond cleaner and vacuum fresheners.
Bath salt users range in age from teenagers to adults in their 40s, studies show.
The website DrugRehabs.Org reported the synthetic cathinones to be commonly sold under the names Bliss, Blizzard, Blue Silk, Charge+, Hurricane Charlie, Ivory Snow, Ivory Wave, Ocean Burst, Pure Ivory, Purple Wave, Red Dove, Snow Leopard, Star Dust, Vanilla Sky, White Dove, White Knight, White Rush and White Lightning.
The products can come in a variety of forms, powder, crystal, liquids, tablets and capsules, according to the website. Drug users will take the substance by ingestion, inhaling, injecting, smoking, snorting or dissolving the substance in water to apply it to their body directly in different ways.
Police said local residents addicted to methamphetamine picked up the drug bath salts because they were "basically being sold over the counter like cigarettes." Local addicts saw it as an easy and logical transition to a new and cheap drug, often times not technically illegal, police said.
Now, with new laws, bath salts have been driven mostly underground where they are sold like cocaine, crack, heroin and other drugs, police said. Collins said the new practice has driven up the price of the high.
"The increased price of the bath salts compounded by the fear of the drug has helped our situation somewhat," Collins said. "According to task force agents, the drug is now being sold on our streets for between $60 and $75 per half gram, which is more than what cocaine was selling for locally, in most cases."
First responders, police, fire and hospital employees are concerned about the increased dangers when responding to a situation where bath salts are present, officials said. The symptoms of bath salts can include hallucinations and people can become disconnected with reality.
Users of the drug can begin to hear voices, see demons and feel things under their skin, officials said.
"We've stopped people driving under the influence of bath salts who were out of their mind and their body was uncontrollably contorting," Collins said. "We have had deaths, near deaths and extreme illnesses because of bath salts; a local mother thought her child was the devil."
Collins said one of the biggest issues facing police is testing for the suspected drug.
"The West Virginia State Police Crime Lab has had a tough time keeping up with the continuously changing chemical compounds," he 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.
Anyone with information on these cases is asked to contact the Parkersburg Police Department at 304-424-844 or leave an anonymous tip at www.parkersburgpolice.com.