Despite statewide ban, police say 'bath salts' still being used

SEATTLE -- Dozens of street cops and narcotics detectives came together Monday to get a lesson on the dangers associated with synthetic drugs, such as "bath salts."

Retired San Diego sheriff's deputy Bill Perno is on a mission to teach every cop about synthetic drugs. Although the drugs are now illegal in Washington, Perno said there's evidence they're still being sold in the Seattle area.

"You are playing chemical Russian roulette, that one time use can kill you," he said.

The Problem Solvers first {A href=""}reported on bath salts two years ago after a spike in hospital visits.

At the same time, suicides and heinous crimes around the country were being to be linked to the drug, including a Fort Lewis solder and his wife who investigators believe killed their 5-year-old son and then themselves after snorting the drug.

"Bath salts are as equal if not more dangerous than cocaine, meth, PCP and LSD," Perno said.

KOMO's reports helped prompt the State Pharmacy Board to outlaw bath salts and spice, which is another synthetic drug. And now Perno is using those reports to help educate police on the drugs.

Among other things, officers learned about faux walls hiding synthetic drugs in various head shops, markets and tobacco stores. Many seasoned vets at Monday's event admitted they needed to learn more about synthetic drugs.

"I've been in law enforcement for 18 years and I know very little about bath salts. This was an eye opener," said officer David Miller, who organized the training session.

Miller spoke about the case of a man who thought his wife and daughter were the devil and could not be subdued by a Taser or pepper spray.

"Now, after going through this training, there is no doubt in my mind he was on bath salts," he said.

A bath-salt high can trigger days of hallucinating, extraordinary strength and extreme paranoia.

Perno knows that just because bath salts are illegal doesn't mean bad guys won't still make and use the product, but at least now the good guys are more aware.

The Washington Poison Center says in 2011 there were 88 reported emergency room cases linked with synthetic drug use. Since the ban, that number dropped to 25 cases.

Because hospitals aren't required to report their cases to the state, the Poison Center says those numbers are only the most acute cases.