Doctors describe bath salts as not only dangerous but deadly

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Police have dubbed a synthetic drug with the same effects as cocaine called bath salts as the "poor man's meth."

Law enforcement officers say the white powdery substance has led to a number of medical emergencies in the past month alone. Doctors said it is to blame for the death of two people in Louisiana.

Officers said they are frustrated by the synthetic drug because it's legal to buy and sell. The drug reportedly has the same effects of cocaine and ecstasy. Officials in the city of Walker found out about the drug last month. Last week, they banned stores there from selling it.

It goes by many names. Cloud9, White Dove, Ivory Wave and Hurricane Charlie are only just a few of them.

"This stuff is the devil in a little plastic package is what it is," said Perry Rushing with the Livingston Parish, La. Sheriff's Office.

He claimed within the past month, this legal drug, which is available online and at convenience stores, has sent a dozen young adults to the hospital. Rushing added over the Christmas holiday, one shift had three separate medical emergency calls from people taking the substance.

"People hallucinating, getting paranoid, some calling 911 saying, 'Hey something is going on,' and when the deputy gets there, the person is hallucinating," he explained.

Rushing said in one case, a man called 911 saying his mother was on the floor and not breathing, but when deputies arrived he was home alone. In another case, deputies responded to a domestic violence case where a man had ingested the bath salts and beat his wife.

"We hold them in the emergency department, psychiatric facilities," said Dr. Christopher Ferguson, an ER Physician at Oschner in Baton Rouge.

Until a few weeks ago, Ferguson admitted he had no idea this synthetic drug existed, but lately, he said he's seen a rash of new patients high on bath salts.

"Parents need to be aware, varied symptoms of paranoia, rapid heart beat. Some people have suicidal thoughts," he commented.

Ferguson said it is possible Louisiana is a distribution state because so many cases are happening here. He said 65 percent of the national cases have occurred in Louisiana.

"It says not for human consumption. I've yet to figure out what the purpose for this is," said Rushing.

Rushing added a Livingston Parish store clerk sold him a Cloud9 packet for $20.00. The ingredients listed read: water softening agents, Epsom salts, sodium chloride and other naturally occurring trace elements and minerals.

"It's very dangerous," said Ferguson.

The Louisiana Poison Control is also getting multiple calls about the drug. The word from deputies and doctors is to keep it out of your system.

Copyright 2011 WAFB. All rights reserved.