AUGUSTA COUNTY, Virginia - Police in the United States are stymied by a new synthetic drug, and its numerous variations, that is legal in many states. Police say so-called bath salts allegedly got their start in Europe as a club drug and were made in Asia. A dilemma faces law enforcement. There is no detection test and no federal law on this drug that causes violent, unpredictable actions.
Augusta County, Virginia, is a rural county in the Blue Ridge Mountains, two and a half hours southwest of Washington. It has a big problem.
Sheriff Randy Fisher says Augusta County was once known as the methamphetamine capital.
"Basically that's all our drug guys were doing were meth cases. Then meth cases started dropping off and all we're doing now are bath salt cases," said Fisher.
Those meth users turned to bath salts because they are cheaper and some versions are still legal. All these legal versions of bath salts masquerade as common household products. Now Fisher's department handles about one bath salt incident every day.
Storeowner Tina Phillips says her store doesn't carry bath salts, but about three addicts a day ask for them.
"They were almost out of their mind. Like crazy. Eyes great big. Scary," said Phillips.
Authorities say the county's bath salts are manufactured in Southeast Asia or China, and distributed through New York City.
"I wish they could realize what it's doing over here, the problem it's causing to people," said Deputy Sheriff Trevor Ross.
Because of its chemical makeup, bath salts can have many derivative compounds, eluding detection.
"With meth or cocaine, we got test kits available, and when we see it, we can test right there in the street and say, it's illegal," said Narcotics officer Todd Lloyd. "And, we can do something about it. But this? What are we going to do?"
These officers say they need a federal law against all bath salts, and their derivatives. Without a law or official test, deputies say the same users keep turning up on the same streets eluding any effort to arrest them or to get them treatment.