'Legal' Drugs Soon To Be Illegal In NC
A number of legal drug alternatives are about to become illegal in North Carolina. While the effort to outlaw synthetic marijuana has drawn much of the focus, another drug included in the ban is causing even greater concern among health professionals. About two or three times a day, a call comes into the Carolinas Poison Center about someone who's smoked or snorted bath salts. Well, that's what the package says the powder is, but it's really marketed as a "legal drug" and most versions contain methylenedioxypyrovalerone. Carolinas Poison Control toxicologist Anna Rouse Dulaney says the drug's effect can be "like a very long cocaine binge." "What we're seeing is increased heart rate, increased blood pressure, increased body temperature, hallucinations, paranoid behavior that persist for days, at times," says Dulaney. "The 'coming down' part is very unpleasant, so people are using more of it. So when they show up in the emergency room people have been doing this for a couple of days now and they haven't eaten." Dulaney says these bath salts are the most dangerous "legal" drug being abused right now. But they won't be legal for long. A measure to make the drug a Schedule 1 controlled substance in North Carolina is awaiting the governor's signature. The measure also outlaws synthetic marijuana compounds found in herbal incense products such as K2 and Spice. Many states are pursuing similar bans. UNC Charlotte criminologist Joe Kuhns says it's an ongoing challenge, because "there are plenty of synthetic substances out there." "If you restrict one, then you change some chemical compounds and come up with a different set of ingredients and then we'll try to react to that," says Kuhns. For example, the most common synthetic marijuana compounds are among hundreds of variations created by former Clemson chemist John Huffman. He says people who smoke them are "idiots," but he's doubtful that outlawing one or two of the compounds will do much to stop people seeking a legal way to get high. Once the ban is signed by the governor, it will take effect in June and carry criminal penalties for both sale and possession of the drugs.