Kids in Strongsville are getting a "legal high" from products marketed as bath salts, and there's nothing police can do to stop it.
The bath salts, with names like "Ivory White" and "White Lightning," are legal and sold in some gas stations, as well as a head shop on Prospect Road called Twilight Boutique.
But teens and young adults are snorting the crystals and getting a high they say compares to methamphetamine.
"We haven't had any direct involvement with people using the bath salts, but we've heard things," Detective Lt. John Janowski said. "We know the kids are doing it."
The salts, which have nothing to do with traditional products used in bathwater, sell for about $20 a gram and contain a chemical called MDPV, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency's website.
Snorting the chemical produces an intense high and hallucinations, the DEA says -- as well as tachycardia and hypertension. "Higher doses of MDPV have caused intense, prolonged panic attacks in stimulant-intolerant users. Users have reported bouts of psychosis induced by sleep deprivation and becoming addicted after using higher doses or using at more frequent dosing intervals," the DEA wrote.
The chemical is legal to sell. That could change, though -- both the Ohio legislature and the U.S. Senate have introduced legislation to make it a Schedule I narcotic.
Recently, the DEA did the same with five chemicals found in "K2" and other products marketed as herbal incense. That product is known as because people roll the chemically treated plant matter into cigarettes and smoke it to get a marijuana-like high.
Unlike marijuana, it is not the vegetable matter that produces the high, but the chemicals the leaves are treated with.
Since 2009, hospitals and poison control centers have seen a steady increase in people experiencing things like convulsions, anxiety attacks, dangerously elevated heart rates, increased blood pressure, vomiting and disorientation after smoking fake pot.
For now, K2 is illegal to buy or sell. But Janowski said it is only a matter of time before its makers find a new chemical to treat the leaves with -- and kids will again be smoking it for a "legal high."
"It's not like they can outlaw a product like bath salts or K2," Janowski said. "They're sold for one purpose and used for another."
TV10 News in Mansfield reported that police there have encountered at least five people who have experienced intense hallucinations after ingesting the chemical in bath salts.
One man "was swimming down the road (saying) that the Mexican mafia was shooting at him and the officer needed to get down because there was a sniper in the area," officer Marijan Grogoza told the station. "There are some serious safety issues. These people become violent. They really believe what they're seeing."
While the package says "not for human consumption," Janowski said there is nothing new about people using products in unintended ways -- huffing gasoline or aerosol cans, for example.
And until the DEA or state legislature acts on the chemical MDPV, police can only hope no local youngsters abuse it.
"There's nothing we can do yet because it's not illegal," Janowski said.