Ithaca, N.Y. — Bath salts were getting a lot of attention in Ithaca in 2012, particularly after a Commons head shop was accused of selling the synthetic drugs.


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Why I Shop Downtown

Since then, media coverage of local bath salts has fallen off dramatically. Does that mean bath salt use has disappeared in Ithaca?

The answer is an emphatic no, says Ithaca police Inv. Kevin McKenna, who spoke at the Citizens’ Police Academy Wednesday night.

So, what happened? “It went underground and it went online,” McKenna says.

McKenna, a member of the Ithaca police for 16 years, stressed that bath salts may be out of the public eye but remain highly prevalent in Ithaca — available for purchase both over the Internet and on the street.

He said that though they were available online before the 2012 case as well, the drugs in general went underground because of pressure from law enforcement statewide. Users have turned to ordering them off of the Internet — where they can be cleverly disguised and packaged as other materials from Chinese or European exporters.

“You used to be able to get it in head shops,” McKenna says. Though that’s now not the case, “… it’s easily gotten on the street… it’s everywhere,” he said.

Stock image courtesy of the DEA
Stock image courtesy of the DEA

(McKenna said he didn’t have numbers readily available about usage rates.)

Here are 3 other things we learned from McKenna about bath salts in Ithaca:

— Impacts of the drug

“It’s altering your state of mind to the point where you’re willing to hurt someone else,” McKenna says. “…You’ll never be yourself after this. After heroin, I would say this is one of the most serious drugs out there.”

Some of the side effects, McKenna says, include thoughts of suicide, panic attacks and scratching oneself to the point of spilling blood. “We’ve had all of these,” he says.

— Dealing with those on bath salts

McKenna says bath salts users enter a state of “excited delirium,” where they have a sort of “super man strength.”

“I have had to fight with someone who has been on bath salts — it’s not fun,” he says.

“They’re not affected by pepper spray; they’re not affected by a taser; it takes brute force to get them under control.”

In part for that reason, McKenna expressed sympathy for hospital staff workers who have to treat those who have taken bath salts.

— Bath salts names

An undercover police operation into the headshops in 2012 revealed a number of things about the trade and sale of bath salts, according to McKenna.

He talked about one brand of bath salt labeled “CRYSTAAL” by the drug dealers.

“It was marketed as a hookah cleaner,” he said.

McKenna said that dealers marketed the bath salts to be appealing to children, pointing to their bright packaging and sleek designs.

Among the names police discovered had been used to market bath salts: “NightLights,” which was sold as an aphrodisiac; “Eight Ballz,” which were sold as a glass cleaner; something called “Energy Soak;” and “Jack Rabbit,” which was sold to kids and had pink, fluffy material on the inside.

Read previous Ithaca Voice coverage of the Citizens’ Police Academy

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Jeff Stein is the founder and former editor of the Ithaca Voice.