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SPECIAL REPORT: Synthetic High Part 2
BATH & ITHACA (WENY) -- The synthetic drugs known as bath salts or synthetic marijuana are overwhelming small local police departments. Until recently, they were sold readily on store shelves, giving users a "legal" alternative to using illicit drugs. But these substances come with severe and dangerous side effects.
"Bath salts make you paranoid, make you freak out and want to kill yourself," explains Alyssa Perison, who is now sober after using bath salts and synthetic marijuana heavily for several months.
The twenty-three year old says she was introduced to them at a party, as a legal alternative to cocaine.That sparked an addiction that landed her in the hospital multiple times, including twice in psychiatric care.
"My chest started to hurt, like really deep chest pain, it felt like somebody was sitting on my chest," Alyssa says as she explains one of the common side effects - skyrocketing heart rate.
"He kept screaming that his heart was racing, he'd be lucid for about a minute, then and then he would just start flailing, and we would be trying to protect his head and his body from getting injured in the station while we were waiting for an ambulance," details Bath Police Investigator Heather Wheaton, talking about a 30 year old man who was high on synthetic marijuana on Liberty Street in the village, back in March.
She says these drugs make people unpredictable and combative- and law enforcement's job even more dangerous.
"Not only are they violent, they really have - reality is completely gone. They really believe people are going to kill them," Wheaton said.
Alyssa knows that feeling well - the overwhelming paranoia.
"So you're seeing like a shadow out the corner of your eye, outside the window, you're like who's outside my house? Are they trying to get in? Do they want to kill me?" she said.
Investigator Wheaton says, when they respond to these emergency calls, officers never know what they'll walk into.
"Had a guy who believed that the police were out to assassinate him. It doesn't get any more dangerous than that, for us," she warns.
Wheaton said the man had ingested about $350 worth of bath salts in a 24 hour period, and was delusional when police arrived.
"He told me that if he would have been cornered in a situation, that he would have killed any cop that he had to, to protect his family... It was a complete delusion," she said, adding that these synthetic drugs are perhaps even more dangerous than methamphetamine, and all too easy to get ahold of.
"You realize that to me, this is scarier than anything I've seen come out during my whole career here," Investigator Wheaton said.
Alyssa says towards the end of her drug use, she started to be afraid to go to sleep - because she might not ever wake up.
"Wouldn't wish this on anybody. Not even the most hated person in the world, I wouldn't wish it on them, because it makes you insane," she said.
Earlier today, the New York State Assembly passed legislation to ban and criminalize the sale and distribution of synthetic marijuana. A similar ban on bath salts has been in place since 2011.
To view Part One of this special report, click here.