Recent bath salts incidents raise concerns with Tempe police - East Valley Tribune: Public Safety

Recent bath salts incidents raise concerns with Tempe police

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Posted: Friday, July 20, 2012 6:01 am | Updated: 11:46 am, Mon Jul 23, 2012.

A man running naked through a Tempe neighborhood, jumping fences with his private parts covered with a plastic trash bag tied across him.

Another crashing his car into the entrance of a Tempe apartment complex.

These incidents occurring this week, as well as a third in recent days, have raised concerns with Tempe police and city fire personnel responding to the reports of the erratic behavior of the men authorities say admitted to being “high” on bath salts.

These bath salts aren’t the kind you can buy from the local bath and body shops, but a synthetic drug that is continually altered with chemicals in clandestine labs and that can send a person into a hypermetabolic state, causing erratic behavior, an overheating of core body temperature and possibly result in death within minutes.

That almost was the case with the two men in their early 20s police arrested earlier this week.

These incidents aren’t just happening in Tempe; they are happening throughout the nation — mostly men between the ages of 22 to 30 using the synthetic bath salts to get high.

However, in hotter climates such as in Arizona and throughout the Southwest, such substance abuse is more dangerous since a reaction can cause one’s core body temperature to rapidly reach 108 degrees as oxygen flow is shut off. More people should be made aware of the dangers, according to Sgt. Jeff Glover, a Tempe police spokesman.

“This is not your grandpa’s Epsom salts,” said Mitch Bycura, head of medical services for the Tempe Fire Department. “This is a very serious drug that’s becoming a serious problem. We’ve been seeing more and more of these cases in recent months, not only in Tempe, but around the Valley. These drugs can cut off oxygen flow and destroy internal organs. Once you witness someone running around without their clothes on, that’s a sign that someone is under the influence of some kind of drug, overheating and spiraling toward death. Bath salts are becoming the most violent drugs I have witnessed.”

These bath salts are toxic synthetic-drug products that are being used as recreational designer drugs. They may contain stimulants including MPDV (methylendedioxpyrovalerone) and mephedrone (methylmethcathinone). These drugs are not controlled by the Drug Enforcement Administration and are not approved for human consumption by the Food and Drug Administration.

The bath salts can have the same effect as cocaine or amphetamines and can be ingested, smoked, snorted or injected. They are often a white, tan, or brown powdery substance and cost about $50 for a 50 milligram packet.

As certain chemicals have been made illegal, others are not, causing underground labs to deviate from the last recipe and make variations of the drug and skirt the latest laws in place, Glover said.

“Although bath salts are not legal, it doesn’t make it conscionable to sell them to people knowing they can kill them,” Glover said. “This is a very serious problem and very dangerous drugs.”

Sean-Paul Branscome, 23, the man running naked through a Tempe neighborhood on Sunday near Guadalupe Road and Country Club Drive, was arrested on suspicion of criminal trespassing after he was released from a local hospital.

Michael Hurtado, 20, was arrested on suspicion of criminal damage on Tuesday after he crashed his car into the entrance of an apartment complex at 922 E. Apache Boulevard near Rural Road. He also was treated at a nearby hospital.

Both Branscome and Hurtado admitted to using bath salts to get high, Glover said.

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