Topeka Salina Police Chief James Hill says a legal substance that people are abusing to experience a methamphetamine-like high is one of the biggest threats his community has faced.
Hill, who spoke before the House Corrections and Juvenile Justice Committee on Jan. 25, is awaiting toxicology results for a 21-year-old Kansas University student who ran onto Interstate 135 in Salina in late December, into the path of a van that struck and killed him.
Investigators found a small container of the substance, known as "bath salts," on Elijah Taylor after he died. A friend who was with him at the time of the crash testified before the House panel that Taylor, who was home on Christmas break, also had smoked an herbal blend of potpourri that mimics the effects of marijuana before he ran onto the highway.
"Bath salts," marketed under such names as Blue Majic, Blue Silk, Ivory Snow, Vanilla Sky, Purple Wave, Hurricane Charlie and White Dove, are being sold in some of the same types of stores that sold synthetic marijuana products like K2 and Spice.
Investigators say "bath salts" have been linked to several deaths across the nation.
Kansas lawmakers banned the synthetic marijuana-like substance K2 last year, but the potpourri is showing up under different names with different chemical compounds than the ones included in the ban.
The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Hill believes legislation is probably going to be introduced this month to address "bath salts." But he said proper research is necessary to make sure any law isn't too narrow.
"We can't ban just this specific drug because it will just leave the door open for others like it," Hill said.
Bath salts" are abused as recreational drugs by injection, smoking, snorting or the use of an atomizer. The U.S. Department of Justice issued a DrugAlert Watch dated Dec. 17.
The products cause increased heart rate, agitation, diminished requirement for sleep, lack of appetite, increased alertness, anxiety, fits and delusions, and nosebleeds. Prices range from $25 to $50 for a 50-milligram packet.
Typical packaging includes a disclaimer that reads "not for human consumption."
Hill said law enforcement and medical personnel in Salina have experienced "an alarming number of emergency calls" to help people who have ingested "bath salt" compounds or synthetic marijuana.
He told lawmakers that 16-year-old children aren't legally allowed to purchase alcohol or cigarettes, but they can go into a store and buy the "bath salts."
"Right now, we appear to be the epicenter of Kansas on this," he said. "This is one of the greatest threats we've faced.
Lt. Jim Norton, with the Salina Police Department, said he has been conducting training classes on "potpourri" and "bath salts."
"After the high is gone and they are coming down, there is a major tendency for suicidal thoughts," he said of the "bath salts."