Dangers of 'bath salts' in spotlight

Drug 'can make a person feel everyone is out to get them'

By Summer Ballentine
The Columbus Dispatch

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Columbus police have shot two men in the past week who were reportedly high on drugs marketed as "bath salts" that doctors and police say can make users aggressive and violent.

"These drugs, even on first use, can dramatically change a person's perception of reality," said Paul H. Coleman, the president and CEO of Maryhaven, which treats drug and alcohol addicts.

Bath salts "can make a person feel everyone is out to get them. People need to stay away from them."

He likened bath salts to LSD and PCP, saying that the hallucinations and paranoia are similar. Despite the name, there is no similarity to the salts used for a relaxing dip in a bathtub.

And despite a statewide ban that went into effect in October, users have found a way to snort, smoke or shoot up the drugs.

Kevin Boozer, 28, was fatally shot on Tuesday after he held a knife to his girlfriend's neck at a house at 5772 Chanwick Dr. on the Far West Side, police said.

SWAT Officer Glenn Thivener, a 24-year veteran of the Columbus Police Division, shot Boozer, according to police.

Boozer's relatives blamed bath salts for making him violent.

Last Thursday, officers responded to a call that Steven P. Lindsey, 28, was breaking into his own house at 1652 S. Champion Ave. on the South Side. Investigators believe he locked himself out.

Police said Lindsey fired at officers, who returned fire and shot him in the finger.

Instances of bath-salt usage are hard to track, said Sgt. Rich Weiner, a police spokesman.

Officers sometimes must rely on information from friends and families because warrants are needed to get medical results confirming bath-salt use, Weiner said.

Nick Kman, an emergency physician at Ohio State University's Wexner Medical Center, said the hospital doesn't have drug screens for bath salts and relies on patients to admit using the drugs.

Worried family members often alert police, reporting unusual, erratic or out-of-control behavior, said Sgt. Jim Gilbert, the president of the Fraternal Order of Police Capital City Lodge No. 9.

Some users "don't recognize family trying to calm them down," Gilbert said. "They have no recognition of what's going on around them."

Last summer, for example, officers chased a burglary suspect on foot, only to have him dive into a sewer to try to elude police, Weiner said. The man told officers he had taken bath salts.

Even though the drugs are banned in Ohio, they're still often sold from behind the counter at convenience stores, Franklin County Sheriff Zach Scott said.

The Franklin County Drug Task Force recently confiscated 6,000 packages of bath salts and synthetic drugs valued at $250,000, Scott announced this month.

The drugs also can be bought online from states where they're still legal.

"If there is a way to buy it, to smoke it, they're finding those ways," Weiner said. "You can only do so much to regulate it."

Copyright 2012 The Columbus Dispatch

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