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Bath salts and plant foods are really legal drugs

January 26, 2011|by Linda Russell, KY3 News | lrussell@ky3.com

SPRINGFIELD, Mo.-- Springfield police are following a potentially dangerous and growing trend: substances marketed as bath salts or even plant food being used as legal drugs.  A half-gram pouch of the powders or crystals are selling in Springfield for $40 or $50, and many aren't using the substance for a nice bath or to help their plants grow.

They're being sold across the Ozarks and the internet as plant food or bath salts, with names like Vanilla Sky, Ivory Wave, Red Dove, Arctic Blast, White Lightning, and Hurricane Charlie.

"The street names are sometimes almost ridiculous.  We've heard Meow Meow," said Springfield Police Dept. spokesman Cpl. Matt Brown.

At one store in Springfield, a reporter was able to buy a half-gram pouch of the crystals, labeled as plant food; powder is also available.  At another drive-through store, the same type of pouch was being sold as bath salts.  A reporter drove up with a hidden camera. 

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"It's the best stuff in town," the salesman at the window said.

Neither business explained any use other than what the packages say, but Springfield police believe many smoke, ingest or inject the substances, which mimic the effects of methamphetamines, cocaine or ecstasy. 

"Which is an illusional psychosis, if you will," said Joe Hahne, a representative of Missouri Recovery Network and executive director of ArchAngel Outreach Ministries. 

Hahne works with addicts of all kinds, and has seen what these new legal drugs can do.

"It has been quite extreme, from the things that I have seen, especially with the gentleman we did an intervention with Friday night.  His mood swings were from severe depression to sever anger within a matter of minutes," Hahne said.

The powders and crystals often contain mephedrone and another compound known as MDPV, chemicals that are so far legal, even undetectable, in Missouri. 

"It is detectable, but the UAs [urinalyses] that we have set in place are not designed to detect the specific chemical," Hahne said.

Although they're legal substances, they could still get you into trouble. 

"What the person does while they're on the product is not (legal), so you can't drive a vehicle under the influence of this; you can receive a DWI," said Brown.

Hahne urges people not to experiment just because they're legal, saying the effects can be even more extreme than meth. 

"It has to be taken seriously, because it's been targeted to our young adults, not just ones that are commonly using meth or cocaine, but young adults can get hold of this, and there's no way to detect it," Hahne said.

Hahne says people who become addicted to the bath salts or plant foods can't get help to recover easily.  He says you have to have a positive drug test to be admitted into most detox programs. 

Several states either have placed emergency bans on the substances or are working to ban them.  Both businesses in Springfield that a reporter visited declined to comment about their sales.

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