Oneida County bath salts use down, but drugs still a problem

Sep 20, 2012

The use of synthetic drugs like bath salts became a growing health and law enforcement problem in upstate New York this summer.  Wednesday, the public had a chance to learn more about this latest trend in drug abuse at a forum in Utica.

Dr. Jeanne Marraffa of the upstate poison control center started the conference off saying this problem came seemingly out of nowhere.

In 2010, no one knew what bath salts were," Maraffa said. "Bath salts in the designer drug world was intended and created for people to abuse them.

Maraffa and a panel of police and government officials spoke to a crowd of about 100 people on the campus of Utica College.

They stressed that the term "bath salts" is simply slang for new synthetic drugs that mimic the effects of amphetamines, but are more potent and far more dangerous.

"They are incredibly dangerous," emphasized Marraffa.

The drugs contain one of three chemical substances that have now been outlawed. But as one chemical compound becomes illegal, chemists quickly cook up new ones and add packaging tricks to skirt the law.

Oneida County Sherriff Robert Maciol said that calls to law enforcement have slowed after a nationwide raid on suppliers in July. But he and other panelists said synthetic drug use still poses a problem for lawmakers trying to get ahead of the drug makers.

"They say things like, 'not for human consumption,' and then they tell you how to use these products in ways that are clearly intended for human consumption," said Maciol.

Luke Tubia reported this story as part of the New York Reporting Project at Utica College. You can read more of the project's stories at their website, nyrp-uc.org.