Gov. Jack Markell and Secretary of State Jeffrey Bullock announced today the issuance of an emergency order to ban bathsalts in Delaware, which means sale, possession and use of the drug is illegal, effective immediately. 

For quite some time, some of the most feared drugs were crack and cocaine among others. Parents and police can add a new drug to the list…bath salts.

These aren’t your typical bath salts. As a matter of fact they’re not really bath salts, just a drug that has the same physical appearance as the typical bath salts product.

Gov. Jack Markell and Secretary of State Jeffrey Bullock announced today the issuance of an emergency order to ban bath salts in Delaware, which means sale, possession and use of the drug is illegal, effective immediately. 

 "In a very short period of time these drugs had come to the attention of law enforcement and medical professionals in Delaware because people are getting sick, suicidal and very, very violent, endangering themselves and others while on these unique drugs," Markell said. "In recent days it has become clear that this problem had become so bad so quickly that we're taking an unprecedented interim measure to get these drugs off the market, out of stores and out of people's hands."

The order, signed by Bullock this afternoon and endorsed by the Delaware Controlled Substance Advisory Committee, made the chemicals in bath salts, which include mephedrone, methylone and methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV), Schedule I narcotics.

Over the past few months, hospitals have seen an increasing amount of people coming in having used the designer drug.

“I’ve been in the field for 21 years and I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Dr. Craig Hochstein, the Emergency Room Director at Bayhealth-Kent General Hospital.

However, up until the Drug Enforcement Administration’s September announcement that they would put a one-year emergency ban on the product, it was legally sold in convenience stores and other outlets across the country.

Marketed under names such as “Vanilla Sky,” “Ivory Wave” and “Bliss,” bath salts are sold with labels stating “not for human consumption” on them, the DEA stated in a release. The stimulants are comprised of a class of chemicals that mimic cocaine, LSD, MDMA, and/or methamphetamine.

The emergency order issued today will be in effect for 120 days. When the General Assembly reconvenes in Janurary, action will be taken to permanently ban the drug, Bullock said.

Deputy Attorney General Brian Robertson said possession of the drug will be considered a misdemeanor level offense, however possession with the intent to deliver will be considered a felony.

Retailers that currently stock the designer drug are urged to relinquish the substances to Delaware State Police.

State Homeland Security Secretary Lew Schiliro said agencies will be working over the next few days on an investigative and enforcement strategy.

"I would strongly urge that during that day or two period, that any store in possession of bath salts go to their nearest police troop and turn them in," he said. "If state police do receive a complaint they will act on it."

Growth of the drug

Just a few short months ago, Hochstein said they would have cases of patients using bath salts here and there but that number has spiked the past couple of months. Now, the ER at Kent General sees one or two people a day.

Hochstein said this may be because more people know of the drug.

“Maybe it’s because it’s not illegal and from what I understand it’s inexpensive.”

The drug can be snorted, smoked, ingested through food and drink, and even injected.

Effects of the drug

The DEA release states users have reported impaired perception, reduced motor control, disorientation, extreme paranoia, and violent episodes.

When people come into the ER at Kent General, Hochstein said patients are anxious, paranoid, scared and psychotic. While some patients come in and admit to using the drug, others are out of control and have to be restrained. For some, the effects wear off after a few hours but some people have been kept for a few days.

To this point, the long-term effects are unknown.

“It’s too early to know about the long-term effects but it’s been suggested that this might not be something that just goes away,” Hochstein said.

Moreover, Hochstein added people become very dangerous to not only themselves but to their friends, family and even the community.

“This isn’t something you smoke and sit in the corner,” Hochstein said. “Folks might do something they regret, they might do something that they’ll spend the rest of their life in jail for.”

Reports have even said bath salts may have had something to do with the death of New Castle County Lt. Joseph Szczerba but no one will comment on the matter.

New Castle County Executive Paul Clark said the county supports the state's action to ban the substance. 

"We have been very disturbed by the easy availability of these substances and their potentially dangerous effects," Clark said. "We hope today's action will lead to safer communities and help reduce the risk for our police, paramedics and other public-safety personnel."

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