State officials say ban on bath salts is working

Barre Mayor Thom Lauzon speaks as Gov. Peter Shumlin, left, Mark Depman, the medical director of the emergency department at the Central Vermont Medical Center. Photo by Andrew Stein

Government numbers show that the state’s recent ban on bath salts is working.

In late July, the Shumlin administration outlawed the sale, use and processing of products containing 86 different chemicals often found in these designer drugs. The ban came after Barre Mayor Thom Lauzon and Mark Depman, director of Central Vermont Medical Center’s emergency department, flagged an uptick in bath salt-related incidences. The law also came one year after the state prohibited 12 similar substances.

At a press conference held in Barre’s public safety building on Thursday, Secretary of Human Services Doug Racine said that since the law went into effect the Northern New England Poison Control Center has not received a single call from Vermont related to bath salts. He compared that number to the 18 calls before July 15 this year, the 16 calls in 2011 and the one call in 2010.

Depman said that he too has seen improved numbers, but he didn’t provide any hard statistics.

“Up until last spring, it was clear we were seeing several cases a week of people using bath salts,” he said. “There was a real crescendo from late 2011 until late spring 2012. By midsummer, we were already seeing a decline in severe side effects.”

Shumlin and Lauzon were also in attendance, lauding the reduction in bath salt-related health incidences.

“These drugs are dangerous and potentially deadly. It’s vital that we continue to take tough action,” said Shumlin. “But the incidences of bath salt use and the effects of that use have dropped dramatically since we came here just a few months ago to wage this war.”

After the meeting, Barre Deputy Fire Chief Joseph Aldsworth and Corporal Roland Tousignant said that since the ban took effect, they have noticed a considerable decline in bath salt use. In the past month, they can’t recall dealing with someone under the influence of the drugs, which contrasts starkly from the one or more bath-salt related health issues they encountered on a daily bases this past summer.

“We were all unprepared for how bad it was going to be and how quickly it would hit us,” said Tousignant.“We were getting flooded.”

He said that before the ban people would line up outside of the Barre head shop, Insane Glass, before it opened up, waiting to buy bath salts.

“Before the legislation went into effect, people could tell us they were on bath salts and there was absolutely nothing we could do,” said Tousignant. “To be honest, it’s scary when someone’s on that. The violence and the unpredictability is very scary.”

Aldsworth has dealt with dozens of people under the influence of bath salts, and he has even witnessed some die — “horrible deaths,” he recalled.

“Death, hallucinations, violence, uncontrollable rage,” he said, listing off the symptoms he has seen from bath salts users. “These chemicals are toxic. They are way worse than heroin, which I’m not playing down, but these eat the body away: inside and out.”

Andrew Stein

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  • Constance Brown

    I am a retired public health professional. If these numbers are accurate, this is one of the most dramatic public health interventions I have ever seen. My congratulations.

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