Friday October 26, 2012

BARRE, Vt. (AP) -- Barre police and emergency crews were caught off guard early this summer when the dangerous synthetic drug called bath salts hit the city.

Calls came in almost daily in June for illnesses and crimes related to the drug.

"It’s very scary to deal with anybody on that," said Cpl. Roland Tousignant.

But efforts to fight the drug appear to be working, officials said Thursday. Tousignant hasn’t had to respond to a call related to bath salts for at least a month.

Officials attribute that to a crackdown on the sellers of the drug and making it illegal to sell, make or possess bath salts in Vermont. The state issued an emergency rule last month to further crack down on the drugs by expanding the list of substances that are considered bath salts or other illegal compounds.

Public education about the dangers of the drug also has helped.

"This is an example where when Mayor Lauzon called me and said we got a crisis, we all worked together as a team to make clear that we weren’t going to let store owners sell this junk in Vermont. And we have significantly reduced the supply," said Gov. Peter Shumlin, who is running for re-election.

The state can’t declare victory yet, he said, but the actions of government, public health officials and law enforcement are making a difference.

Calls to the New England Poison Control Center from Vermont about bath salts rose from 1 in 2010, to 16 in 2011 to 18 in the first half of this year, said Agency of Human Services Commissioner Doug Racine. But there have been no calls since the week of July 22, when the first amended emergency rule to stop the sale of the drug took effect, he said.

"We’re trying to stay ahead of the manufacturers," said Racine, who said the materials in the drugs change frequently to get around such rules.