The legal sale of bath salts, an addictive and potentially lethal drug, comes to an end in Delaware County and Ohio today, but for Tanya White and her boyfriend, Kenneth Stiles, the ban is too late.
“He had tried bath salts a few times in Marion and originally enjoyed the sedating effect it had,” White said, recalling her boyfriend’s final days.
“When he started purchasing bath salts here in Delaware at a local gas station, the effects of the drug became more severe,” she said.
Stiles started seeing things, White said. He became convinced the police were outside their house trying to get in and that people were even in the bathroom with him, she said.
“At night he would mumble for hours, not making sense. He was in a total altered state,” White said.
The morning Stiles lost his life, he was acting paranoid from smoking a jar of bath salts the day before, according to White.
“I thought he was going outside to have a cigarette like usual when he woke up and I just went back to sleep.”
When she went looking for Stiles, however, White found him in the living room with a rope around his neck, she said. He was 26.
Following Stiles’ death, White informed the convenience store where he bought the drug what happened, she said. The store continued to sell the drug that White believes led her boyfriend to take his own life.
Bath salts emerged in Delaware County within the last two years. Despite its title, it is not added to your bath water. It is meant to be snorted, smoked and in some cases, injected like heroin. The drug — which was sold under a variety of names, such as “CloudNine” and “Lunar Wave”— has become a growing issue in Delaware County and elsewhere. Bath salts are a potent, hallucinogenic, synthetic drug that have a crystalline composition similar to cocaine and mescaline. However, because they are so new, the actual ingredients in bath salts are unknown.
“Because these products are relatively new to the drug abuse scene, our knowledge about their precise chemical composition and short-term and long-term effects is limited, yet the information we do have is worrisome and warrants a proactive stance to understand and minimize any potential dangers to the health of the public,” Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute of Drug Abuse said in a written release.
Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of bath salts’ arrival and popularity as a mainstream drug is its easy accessibility. Prior to today, bath salts were sold legally in Delaware County. The drug could be purchased for around $20 to $40 dollars at local smoke shops, some gas stations and on the Internet.
“I know the Clark Service Station is selling bath salts,” said Steve Hedge, Executive Director of Delaware Morrow Mental Health and Recovery Services told the Gazette this month. Hedge said 12 to 15 percent of new drug abuse cases in Ohio’s behavioral health organizations are bath salts related.
In the wake of Stiles’ death, White is left with more questions than answers.
“Every time I go into the convenience store people are buying it. I saw one guy buy 10 jars of it. If the store owners know what this stuff does to people, why were they selling it? Why wasn’t there an emergency ban?”
This is a question many in the community are asking and one that State Representative Margaret Ann Ruhl is working to correct. Ruhl’s bill, House Bill 64, which officially classifies bath salts as a Schedule 1 controlled substance, was passed by both the Ohio House of Representatives and the Ohio Senate this summer.
House Bill 64 goes into effect today, officially ending the legal sale of bath salts in Ohio. The bill also makes possession or consumption of bath salts illegal.
The legislation puts bath salts in the same classification as LSD, heroin and cocaine, validating the dangerous nature of the drug.
“I’ve heard numerous stories of kids hallucinating on the drug, and when you ask them why they keep doing it, even if they know how dangerous it is, their response is this: because it’s legal,” said Ruhl.
“Why were stores continuing to sell the drug even if they knew the harmful side effects of the product? The drug is a quick money maker, simple as that,” Hedge said.
“Stores will never turn down a big seller. The most important thing, though, is making the public, teachers and parents aware of the potential dangers associated with the use of this drug,” he said.
Hedge also cautioned: “Even though the drug will be illegal, that doesn’t mean it will stop being a problem in the community. This drug is here to stay. It just won’t be bought at your local grocery store now.”
For more information on bath salts, visit odadas.ohio.gov.