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Will back to school bring more bath salts use?

Raquel Baranow

The abuse of the designer drug called "bath salts" came of age this summer, with violent episodes from abusers reported by police and medical professionals across central New York.

Some authorities are worried about what happens next, when universities and schools go back into session.

Toxicologist Alexander Garrard of the Upstate New York Poison Center has been tracking the hundreds of bath salts calls to the poison center this year.  And he says there might be an uptick at the end of August and September, when college kids return to central New York, especially freshmen.

"They're out of their house, they're out of Mom and Dad's watch. 'Now I can do whatever I want,' and that's going to be an attractive option," said Garrard.

Garrard is concerned it's not just the college students who might try them.  He says the demographics of bath salts has started trending younger.

"At first it was only people in their young 20s and 30s up to 50 or 60.  But I think that trend is now changing," he said. "Look at the marketing, 'Mr. Nice Guy' for synthetic marijuana. 'Ivory Wave,' 'Hurricane Charlie,' a lot of these products are marketed towards younger people. So I think we are going to start seeing a trend among teenagers, and that's what they're going to use."

Garrard says that the names of the products and the fact that they can be bought in stores are some of the factors that may attract younger people to these hallucinogenic drugs.

"With cocaine, there is a stigma, somewhat attached.  Oh, I'm a 'cokehead.'  But when people say, 'I use bath salts,' it's almost like an innocent fun that a lot of these newer college kids may be experiencing or that we may see ultimately," said Garrard.

Things are a little different though than when Bath Salts first came on the scene.  Some local governments have banned bath salts, and federal and local authorities have raided head shops, where they are often sold.  

The Upstate Poison Center says that already this year there have been in the neighborhood of 300 calls to them from their 54-county upstate region. That compares to 118 calls for all of last year.

Abusers of bath salts can become very violent, and agitated, and can be a danger to themselves and others.  Recent forums on the topic have drawn hundreds of people from police to school administrators who want to know how to deal with abusers on their watch.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.