A Lodi man was zip-tied and detained by at least four Lodi officers early Friday morning after police suspected he took a new, popular type of drug known as bath salts.
Lodi police officers detained Craig Riger in the News-Sentinel parking lot after he was reportedly seen by multiple drivers running in and out of traffic on Lockeford Street just west of Church Street, police said.
Sgt. Mike Oden said Riger was yelling for help when police caught up to him, saying someone was following him and wanted to kill him.
Though it was not immediately confirmed whether Riger had taken bath salts, Oden said it was suspected the man could have been under the influence of the narcotic.
Oden said the police department has seen a rise in the number of bath salt cases recently. According to medical experts, the drug — which is considered to have an even bigger high than methamphetamine — is becoming increasingly popular to use.
Not meant for the bath tub
The new drug is marketed under the name “bath salts,” and it is a crystalline compound that creates effects similar to those of methamphetamine and cocaine.
It is not currently known just what goes into bath salts, because the compounds vary so greatly, said Dr. Richard Geller, the medical director of the California Poison Control System.
There is also no blood or urine test that has been developed to determine whether a person has taken bath salts.
Despite the fact that bath salts have been marketed as “not meant for human consumption,” Geller said that is a trick on the part of the drug’s manufacturer or seller. That label is placed there so the drug is not explicitly labeled as illegal.
“Apart from the fact that they are crystal or powder like the ones you find at Bed, Bath and Beyond, (bath salts) are nothing like what you find in stores,” Geller said.
The dangers of bath salts
According to Geller, bath salts were nowhere on the radar of medical or drug experts until August 2010 when the Poison Control Center in Baton Rouge, La. began receiving numerous calls about extremely violent reactions to an unknown drug.
On Jan. 1, 2011, the California Poison Control System began monitoring cases reported as involving bath salts.
“It started kind of slowly, maybe two or three cases a month,” Geller said. “We are now at the point where we are seeing 20-plus cases a month. And that is just a snapshot of the bath salt use in California.”
The problem, Geller said, is that reporting bath salt usage is not mandatory.
If someone either inhales, ingests or injects bath salts, Geller said, the resulting “high” — which can last up to 24 hours at a time — could turn deadly.
Bath salts combine the most dangerous effects of a number of abused drugs, Geller said. Hallucinations become dangerous. The central nervous system revs up, as it does with methamphetamine.
Bath salts are so strong, they can even produce an irreversible psychosis, Geller said.
According to Geller, his greatest concern comes from the tendency to see bizarre suicides when people take bath salts.
“People literally filet themselves open,” he said. “They take knives and cut themselves open and their intestines fall out.”
Preventing bath salt use
Thus far, no test has been created to find a way to test for bath salt ingestion.
There is also no epicenter where a majority of the cases are found.
From Lodi to Los Angeles, Geller said that if someone were to blindfold themselves and throw darts at a map of California, it would be highly likely they would strike a place where a bath salts case had been reported.
Possessing bath salts is legal in California; selling or manufacturing the designer drug is not.
Possession — as well as possession for sale — can be treated as a misdemeanor or felony, depending on the circumstances.
So far, no California law creates serious punishments for manufacturing or taking bath salts.
An Assembly bill authored by Ben Hueso, D-San Diego, and signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown in October 2011 carries a maximum six-month county jail term and a maximum $1,000 fine.
Geller said the rate at which bath salt use is accelerating is discouraging, and that the state needs to do more to prevent its use and production.
He said he has not seen the state take much action, despite going to the Department of Public Health a year ago to warn them of the drug’s serious consequences.
“Even in its heydey, meth did not produce the carnage we see today with bath salts,” he said.
Contact reporter Katie Nelson at email@example.com.