BANGOR, Maine -- The Bangor Police Department and The Acadia Hospital will host a daylong conference Wednesday about the synthetic drug bath salts, a dangerous -- and often psychosis-inducing -- street drug that police and medical staff in the region are dealing with daily.
Bath salts first emerged in Maine earlier this year on the streets of Bangor, where it is also called "monkey dust," but its use quickly spread throughout the state, Dr. Anthony T. Ng, medical director of psychiatric emergency services at Acadia, and Bangor Police Chief Ron Gastia said in a letter to participants.
"Maine is facing a mounting crisis with the introduction of so-called bath salts earlier this year," the letter states. "Nowhere has that crisis been more prominent than in the Bangor/Penobscotregion."
People need to know the truth about the drug, which was banned in July, Ng has said.
Bath salts make "the brain go crazy," he said last month at the fourth annual Summit on Addiction Recovery, noting that users become psychotic, paranoid, agitated and hallucinatory, making them hard to deal with.
Maine legislators strengthened the bath salts law last week, making possession a misdemeanor and trafficking a felony, and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and Congress are both working to make the main components of the hallucinogenic stimulant illegal.
The drug is banned in 33 states but is sold legally at convenience stores, head shops and online in the remaining unregulated states.
"The morning portion of the conference will highlight some ongoing concerns about the problems of ... bath salts, including medical, psychiatric, and law enforcement aspects," the letter states. "In the afternoon, we have identified five separate focus groups that will individually identify intervention strategies that will be unique to the respective groups, as well as identifying current problems associated with handling users of these drugs, possible alternatives to current practices, and examining solutions options to current and future problems associated with these and other new drugs."
The conference is scheduled for 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Wednesday at Eastern Maine Community College and, in addition to local police and Acadia staff, will feature representatives from the New England Poison Control Center, Eastern Maine Medical Center, the state's Office of Substance Abuse and the Maine Attorney General's Office.
One of several breakout groups will include members of the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency, Maine State Police, the Penobscot County Sheriff's Department and the Penobscot County Jail.
The four other breakout groups are broken down under the categories medical-health, mental health-substance abuse, community-media and children-schools.
"This is a public health concern, as it is not only the individuals affected, but also their families, friends, responders, care givers and the community at large that are affected," the letter from Gastia and Ng states. "Both the adult and children populations are at significant risk from these street drugs."