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July 03. 2012 11:06PM

For drug addicts, notions of getting that legal high

KEENE — Christina Close believed she was about to hit the drug-high jackpot with her introduction to “bath salts,'' a synthetic hallucinogen sold legally in Keene.

“I'm an addict that's trying to stay clean, and when you hear there is a legal drug you can go buy, you're going to be: 'OK. I can't get in trouble for this.' And that was my first thinking on this,” said Close, 31, of Keene.

Her second thought? It must be safe to use.

“I figured, if it was legal — they're selling it out of the store — what can be so bad? I didn't think of overdosing. I didn't think of any of those things.”

Close told her story to a reporter whom she happened to meet at the Cheshire County House of Corrections in Keene last week.

“I'm an addict originally,'' Close said. “I've been trying to be clean. I've been clean for about a year and a half. I smoke marijuana, but clean for me is not heroin or cocaine. …

“I was fiending, really itching really bad to get high, and somebody brought it to my house.”

Over a 36-hour period, Close said, she went through 4 grams of bath salts bearing the brand name White Girl.

“What it did to me was make me freak out. I thought people were stealing from me,'' she said. “I was fiending for a hit, and afterward you get this overwhelming feeling … it's not even a high. You don't even really get a hit.

“With crack or cocaine, you feel it. It's a rush,'' she added. With bath salts, “it was a little bit up, and then it was a really bad mind thing.”

Bath salts are sold at two convenience stores in the area, one in Keene and one in Marlborough, she said, but the stores will not sell it to minors.

“I don't know how they are getting away with it,” she said.

Keene police said they know that it is sold at some stores in the city, but are not sure which ones.

Marlborough police officer Jeremy LeBlanc said bath salts are sold at a convenience store in town, but would not specify which one.

He became aware of it about four months ago when he had to deal with a man who was on the verge of becoming violent. The man was taken to the emergency room with a 160 heart beat and a temperature of 103. ER staff told LeBlanc the man would either die or be released. He lived.

LeBlanc learned where the man had purchased the bath salts and went to the store for a sample.

“They don't show it on the shelf. You have to go in and ask for it and they have it behind the counter, hidden away,” LeBlanc said. “Almost anywhere you're going to go that's how it's going to be.”

The sample turned out to be made from currently legal substances so no charges could be pressed, he said.

The man was not a resident of Marlborough; he was passing through town and had heard he could get bath salts at this particular place, LeBlanc said.

At each store, the drug is kept behind the counter, packaged in small bottles containing 1 gram of white powder. It costs $80 a gram, according to Close.

“You go in and you ask for it, and if you look legit, they give it to you. … You got to act like a druggie.”

In addition to White Girl, the drug goes by the names Vanilla Sky and Ivory Wave, she said.

According to Close, the White Girl label reads “stain remover, not for human consumption.”

“It probably is stain remover,” she said. “It tastes like bleach. It's gross, it's really gross. But you don't care.”

In some cases, the drug is marketed as plant food; in others, it is sold without any pretense of hiding its intended purpose.

Users snort, smoke or inject bath salts.

Close said that because cocaine is hard to find in Keene and bath salts are readily available — and about the same price as cocaine — drug addicts are opting to use bath salts.

“They are looking for a coke high, but they are going for this 'cause it's right there, and it's the same amount of money,” she said. “People are curious, especially drug addicts. That's what got me, the curiosity and wanting to get high.”

Such a high can land a user in protective custody at Cheshire County jail in Keene. Jail Superintendent Richard N. Van Wickler said a bath salts user high upon arrival is even higher eight to 10 hours later.

“They are much worse off than when they were brought in,” Wickler said last week.

Wickler said he has seen people pick off chunks of their skin, believing they were removing wood ticks. “It's horrifying,” he said.

“It's just the most awful thing that you could watch someone go through.”

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Meghan Pierce may be reached at mpierce@newstote.com.


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