WATERVILLE — Paranoid, delirious and semi-comatose users of the hallucinogenic stimulant bath salts are still appearing at area hospitals, despite emergency legislation banning the drug signed July 6.

Dr. Scott Kemmerer, a medical director for MaineGeneral Medical Center emergency departments, said five or six people a week suffering the ill effects of bath salts arrive at the hospital in Waterville or Augusta.

“We had a peak in mid-June but that has dropped off a bit since the legislation was signed, because now it’s off the shelves,” said Kemmerer, who is also a emergency room physician.

Bath salts can also prove fatal.

“The first time you use it could be the last thing you do,” he said, noting that in other parts of the country people high on bath salts have died because of accidental overdose and suicide.

Kemmerer said it does not take a large quantity to cause a person’s body temperature to rise.

“Literally, muscles can melt,” he said. “And that causes a chemical to release” that can lead to kidney failure, Kemmerer said.

Kemmerer questioned why anyone would want to “ingest something made in a drug lab in somebody’s basement in the middle of the country.

“It’s so dangerous,” he said. “It’s plain old bad news. Nothing good can come of it.”

Bath salts contain the synthetic chemicals mephedrone or methylenedioxypyrovalerone, which can cause hallucinations, paranoia, a rapid heart rate and suicidal thoughts.

People who snort, smoke, inject or swallow bath salts can suffer a spectrum of illnesses, said Kemmerer, from mild agitation to full-blown delirium with psychotic paranoid behavior.

Even after suffering the drug’s adverse effects, Kemmerer said that once users detoxify, they crave it.

“They understand how paranoid they felt; they thought someone was after them, whether it was the devil or the police or someone running after them,” he said.

The time it takes for a patient to detoxify, Kemmerer said, ranges from 12 or so hours to three or four days.

“We had one case where, even after a few days, the person could barely speak,” he said.

Kemmerer said, to date, there are no tests that show whether a person has taken bath salts. He also said there is no antidote.

Because bath salts are a relatively new drug, Kemmerer said physicians don’t yet know the potential long-term side effects.

Beth Staples — 861-9252

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