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St. Charles County Bans Hallucinogenic 'Bath Salt' Drugs

Synthetic chemical use blamed for attack in St. Peters, suicide attempts and nine deaths nationwide.

The package may read “bath salts,” but parents, health and law officials say it’s a dangerous hallucinogenic drug--and it was legal in St. Charles County until last night.

Synthetic drugs called Ivory Wave, Ivory Snow, Cloud Nine, Bliss and Vanilla Sky have been sold in at least four St. Charles County stores labeled bath salts, but the products’ intended use is to be snorted, smoked or swallowed to get high.

“I have a very dear loved one who used it,” Sandy Walters, of O’Fallon, told St. Charles County Council members. “What I witnessed, I hope none of you ever have to witness.”

Walters said her loved one “hears voices, and the doctors can’t guarantee the voices will ever go away. You hope they do.”

The county council passed an emergency ordinance Monday night with a 6-0 vote, prohibiting various synthetic chemicals marketed as bath salts. The drugs mimic the effects of cocaine, methamphetamine or ecstasy.

Bob Kneemiller, Ward 4 St. Charles City Councilman, plans to introduce a similar bill that would ban the substances at tonight's meeting. Kneemiller said he wanted to pass a law banning the drug quickly. 

"We can get something done within a couple of weeks and at least have it on the books for our police department," he said. 

County Council Chairman Joe Brazil, a Republican representing District 2, said county council members had been waiting on the state Legislature to pass a law banning the substances.

“But when someone runs through a church attacking people, and kids are attempting suicide, we can’t wait,” said Brazil, of Defiance.

On March 29, a 26-year-old St. Charles man attacked three people at the First Baptist Church St. Peters after smoking Supercense, a synthetic form of marijuana that was legal. The man told police he began hallucinating and entered the church because he was scared and wanted to get help.

Last year, the county council banned K-2 and similar “fake pot” products marketed as potpourri.

But manufacturers soon produced other synthetic compounds that mimic drugs such as cocaine, methamphetamine, ecstasy and LSD.

Bryan Hampton, the Sheriff's Department crime lab director, said the ordinance bans a large number of synthetic chemicals and compounds derived from them in the hope that keeps law enforcement ahead of the manufacturers.

"On the other hand, we may be back here next year with another list of chemicals to ban," Hampton said.

St. Peters Mayor Len Pagano told council members that police believe the bath salt drug is responsible for at least nine suicides nationwide, including two possible suicide attempts in St. Peters.

Brandy Pedersen, of St. Peters, said she found out about the drugs after a friend’s 14-year-old son experimented with the synthetic drugs.

“He wound up going into the hospital into the psychiatric ward,” Pedersen said. “He was suicidal. A lot of hospitals and detox centers have trouble knowing how to treat this. There’s a lot of active components in these chemicals.”

‘No better than drug dealers’

One common hallucinogenic substance added is MDVP or mephedrone, a stimulant similar to the street drug ecstasy, Anthony Scalzo, medical director for the Missouri Poison Center and an emergency department physician at SSM Cardinal Glennon, according to a news release.

He said MDVP and other synthetic stimulants cause a range of harmful symptoms beyond the feeling of euphoria, including a rapid heart beat--which users requiring emergency care describe as a pounding in the chest--elevated blood pressure, panic attacks, hallucinations and paranoia.

Scalzo said unlike a prescription drug, the substances added undergo no testing for dosage or quality, so the degree of the effects--and how individual users may be affected--is uncertain.

“The people who are selling this, they’re no better than drug dealers,” Brazil said. “They know what this stuff is used for.”

Sheriff Tom Neer said at least four St. Charles County stores sell the drug, and he said the sheriff’s department would notify the store managers Wednesday morning.

Brazil said a 50-milligram packet costs from $40 to $50--much more than ordinary bath salt--and has no use as a bath salt.

The synthetic drugs are sold under names such as Ivory Wave, Ivory Snow, Red Dove, Purple Wave and Vanilla Sky. The synthetic drugs are available in at least four St. Charles County stores and by ordering online.

The ordinance banning sale of the drugs takes effect immediately throughout the county--including municipalities within St. Charles County. But there will be no arrests for possession of the drugs for another 30 days.

However, other cities are expected to pass ordinances outlawing the drugs, including St. Charles and St. Peters.

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