Synthetic drug testing: Compounds in 'bath salts' now traceable

Published: Nov. 29, 2012 at 10:24 PM CST|Updated: Dec. 15, 2014 at 2:05 AM CST
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LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - This Summer, KCBD NewsChannel 11 reported about the increasing dangers of synthetic cocaine, commonly known as "bath salts." One of the many problems we reported was that there was no way to detect the drug in someone's system. However, laboratories have now developed testing for the drug and local probation offices are utilizing the technology.

"Bath salts, to tell you the truth, I don't know why people use that because it's so dangerous," said Lubbock County Adult Probation Dept. Director, Steven Henderson. "It mimics a number of different compounds from cocaine, methamphetamine and it may even have some hallucinogenic effects. It's just plain dangerous," said Henderson.

According to the American Association of Poison Control, 6,138 calls were made in 2011 related to the use of bath salts.

Despite a statewide ban in September 2011, use of synthetic drugs continues to rise.  Associate Director for the Texas Tech University Center for the Study of Addiction and Recovery, George Comiskey said an addiction can be triggered by a number of reasons, including a deep rooted issued.  "There's something beyond the drug use that says I'm not okay with myself," said Comiskey.

"Once somebody starts using something that changes how they feel, then it becomes something not only that they like, but now, something that they need."

According to Comiskey, bath salts are even more damaging than the drug it aims to mimic.

"What we're seeing with young people who are trying to get in recovery is the damage it does chemically to somebody's brain to their whole endocrine system and has long term effects."

Once undetectable, testing for bath salts is now available. Henderson works closely with Redwood Toxicology Labs, to test those who struggle with addiction.

"People need to realize we use this testing and it's not in order to play a game of "gotcha," in which we're trying to trail them nail them and jail them,"  said Henderson.  "If they're using it, we need to now, so we can get them help because it's hurting people."

The Texas Poison Center reports that exposure to the drug continues to climb, even just months after the ban was enacted.

Reports indicate the use of bath salts spike again in February 2012 and in June 2012. Comiskey said drug use commonly spikes when there is a change in schedule, such as when school is out and during the holiday season. Authorities want to educate parents that this testing is available to those who suspect their children are using synthetic cocaine.

The test is a simple urine analysis, which runs approximately $45.

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