Law enforcement officers, educators, activists, elected officials and concerned citizens attended a bath salts summit,Wednesday evening, the same day federal authorities closed a local business alleged to sell bath salts.
Cpl. Isaac Harmon, of the West Virginia State Police, discussed the dangers of bath salts to the users and the community as a while. He was joined by a 16-year-old recovering bath salts user who shared his experience with the drug.
"There was s substantial bust pertaining to your area and Harrison County today," Cpl. Isaac Harmon said. "Hot Stuff and Cool things was shut down today."
The business with locations formerly in Buckhannon and Clarksburg was part of an investigation by federal authorities that alleges bath salts and synthetic marijuana were sold illegally.
"We do have an uphill battle," Harmon said. "Hopefully this bust will set a precedent."
The objective of the summit was to increase public knowledge about bath salts, which are marketed generally as a salt to put in baths but is used by addicts to attain a high which is 200 times more addictive than powder cocaine, Harmon said.
"It is our next meth," Harmon said.
Bath salts are synthetically devised to create the same effect as a natural substance. Unlike meth, however, bath salts do not need Pseudoephedrine to be produced.
Users either inject, snort, smoke or take the bath salts orally.
Harmon said users will take the drugs by whatever method they are most accustomed to using.
Harmon said he has been told by users about staying up for 37 straight hours
after using bath salts. He has investigated cases involving bath salts usage which likened the danger to investigating an active domestic call.
Harman said users will become paranoid, suffer panic attacks, have agitation, chest pains, insomnia, and hallucinations, and suicidal thoughts among other complications.
Because the drug is so new, it is difficult to administer treatments to patients suffering from withdrawals. Mental health care and health care professionals are seeking ways to treat individuals trying to kick the habit.
The long term effects of using the drug are not yet known, but Harmon said the short term usage effects are "not good."
"It's happening everywhere, but is really bad in your area and in Harrison County," Harmon said of bath salts usage.
"It's all about the money," Harmon said. "Sellers don't care about you."
Harmon said the bath salts and K2, an illegal synthetic marijuana, are often packaged to mimic childrens' candies.
A 16-year-old recovering bath salts addict discussed his descent into addiction and incarceration, and coming off bath salts while behind bars.
The teen user described how he began using K2 and tried bath salts at a party and was "instantly addicted."
"I was a good kid," he said. "I didn't get into any trouble."
All that changed after life with bath salts and K2.
"Now I have felonies against me, I was in jail," he said. "I'm now under house arrest, and for what."
He is facing a possible jail term for his actions under the influence of bath salts. He said he would wake up in the morning not thinking about if he would use, but how he was going to use.
"I never had any problems with my parents," he said. "I started using and became combative. I stole from them."
He also described being in jail and coming off using bath salts.
"Withdrawals are terrible on your body," he said. "I had to sleep on the edge of my bed because I vomited in my sleep and didn't want to lay in it."
He has been off bath salts since Feb. 13 of this year but still reports having problems.
"I am still hostile. I have to walk away sometimes," he said. "I hope it fades away."
He said he was a frequent visitor to the Hot Stuff and Cool Things store during his time as a user.
"I knew people supporting a $1,000 a week bath salts habit living in a box when they could have had a life," he said.
He said he knew there were people dying from bath salts use and didn't care when he was using.
"I coughed up blood," he said. "I knew I was going to die."
Upshur County Family Resource Network Director Joyce Harris-Thacker said drug abuse has taken on many different forms in the community, and citizens need to stand up together and say "no" to drugs in the community and for the children.
"We need to join together to fight it," Harris-Thacker said. "We need to do whatever it takes to stop it.
"Say no, not in our community, not for our children, not in our community," Harris-Thacker said.
"This is how it starts, this is how it grows," Del. Bill Hamiltion said of the effort to stop bath salts in the county.
"I need your help, Cpl. Harmon needs your help. We can't do it without you," Hamilton said.
Contact John Clise by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.