Bath salts program set Tuesday|
|Local law professionals are calling it an epidemic.|
The possession and use of a drug known in street terms as bath salts is prevalent, ripping through Antigo and Langlade County with a vengeance.
Reports of the laboratory-produced powder surfaced here more than a year ago, arrests oftentimes sparked by the bizarre behavior associated with its use are up substantially and the local court docket is clogged with cases referencing the drug — and yet still, to some it remains a mystery.
Dan Bauknecht of the Langlade County Sheriff’s Department is hoping to change that.
On Tuesday, the drug investigator will continue his mission to educate the public about the easily accessible and incredibly addictive product in hopes that more people can learn of its imminent danger.
The informative meeting will begin at 6 p.m. in the Clover Room inside the multipurpose building at the Langlade County Fairgrounds.
For Bauknecht and Sheriff Bill Greening, education is the first step in hopefully bringing an end to the problem which the latter cites as “one of the worst drug issues we have faced in the last 20 years.”
“The general public probably has no idea the serious consequences of its use and the signs and symptoms to look for,” Greening said. “This came on so strong and took over our area so fast that there is a lot of confusion still out there.”
The problem is a real one with accounts believed linked to the “salts” reported in the Antigo Daily Journal almost daily. Some are strange with hallucinations running the gamut from sightings of people only visible to the users to the truly bizarre with a local man frantically screaming he was being stung by “killer bees” without an insect in sight to another man dousing himself with anti-freeze on the false belief he was on fire. There have also been several incidents of individuals wounding themselves to the point of needing medical treatment.
Law officers cite suspected bath salt usage in their reports on a more frequent basis, describing individuals as “visibly on edge” or “extremely agitated, emotional and uneasy” as well as evidence of manic behavior and extreme paranoia which has caused some users to “hole up” in their homes for days on the fear they were being watched or followed.
“The scariest thing is the rapid deterioration and quick implosion of their life,” Bauknecht said. “The drug becomes the center focus, the only focus, of their lives.”
“No one knows the long term, or even short term, consequences,” Greening added, explaining that a bath salt user can react one way one day and completely different the next.
“There are so many variables and unknowns,” he said.
And that factor alone becomes one of law officers’ biggest challenges — let alone the users’ families who may not even have an inkling of the cause of their loved ones’ behavior.
“We don’t know who we are dealing with or how they will react to it as the reactions are never the same,” Bauknecht said.
For Antigo and Langlade County, it is a problem that has exploded to epidemic proportions.
“For whatever reasons we have become ground central for bath salts,” Greening said, stressing that educating the public on its danger is essential.
“We have to take our community back before someone else gets involved in this,” Bauknecht said.
Langlade County Sheriff Bill Greening displays various items of drug paraphernalia, including jewel bags, aluminum foil and carrying cases, associated with rising incidents of bath salt use in the northwoods.
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