State places emergency ban on bath salts

State places emergency ban on bath salts »Play Video
SEATTLE -- The state is about to announce a ban on certain kinds of bath salts, the Problem Solvers learned late Tuesday afternoon.

The so-called salts are actually a designer drug that's legal to buy in most states, but deadly if used the wrong way.

The Department of Health agrees with the Problem Solvers, as well as the Washington Poison Center and the parents of one young man who took his own life while under the drug's influence.

"On Tuesday, the ninth of November, my son, Dicky, called me and told me he snorted one gram of this product called Cloud 9. He called it a bath salt," said father Richard Sanders.

The father thought because his son bought the bath salt at a convenience store, it must be safe. But Dicky, a happy and healthy teenager, was suddenly riddled with anxiety and paranoia after taking the drug. He insisted police surrounded his parents' home to hurt him.

When his father told him there were no cops outside, Dicky didn't believe it.

"He reached and grabbed in front of a butcher block. He said, 'I'm going to kill myself,' then and literally cut his neck from ear to ear with a razor-sharp butcher knife," said Richard. "Immediately I realized I said something that was confrontational to him and I didn't mean it that way."

Doctors saved Dicky, but hours after his hospital release, his father found him dead with a gunshot wound to the head.

"We lost him," said Richard. "I can't believe he is dead. What happened?"

The Problem Solvers have learned that manufacturers take advantage of a known loophole. Bath salts are labeled "not for public consumption." That distinction means they bypass a rigorous FDA exam, and don't get the attention of the DEA; they're not considered drugs.

"They do say right on the label, 'This is not for human consumption.' Yet everybody trying these things knows what's going on," said Jim Williams, executive director of Washington Poison Center.

Williams saw a spike in bath salt calls last December, and warned every hospital in the state with an alert. The warning identified the active ingredient, a stimulant called MVDP, which produces effects similar to a hallucinogenic amphetamine.

"These need to come off the shelves and not be sold," said Washington State Board of Pharmacy member Susan Teil Boyer.

Until now, anybody - even kids - could buy bath salts over the counter. With the Problem Solvers' undercover cameras, we bought them in a matter of minutes. No questions asked, no ID required.

We found them in Seattle-area smoke shops, head shops, even mini-marts. Last month, I contacted the Department of Health to ask how they could be legal in Washington.

Officials were already investigating, and their findings have prompted a rare emergency ban on bath salts. The ban makes it illegal to sell, buy or use in our state.

"I'm very concerned and the board is very concerned about public safety and the risk," Boyer said. "These are bad products, and I'm worried about kids getting into them."

These types of emergency bans are rare. This is only the second ban of its kind in years by the state.

The decision was unanimous, and an official announcement is due Wednesday.

The state is in the process of contacting all the stakeholders including all the sheriff's and police chief associations in the state.