Synthetic Cocaine Sold As Legal Substitute To Real Drug

The latest designer drug is sold at local smoke shops; has effects similar to cocaine and ecstasy, and is not detected in standard drug tests

LAS CRUCES, New Mexico - Hallucinations, psychotic outbursts, and heart attacks are harmful effects from real drugs, but synthetic versions may be just as dangerous, yet easier to hide who is using them.

Teenagers may be among those using the latest designer drug known as ?synthetic cocaine,? but parents need to be aware of it.

Virtually anyone with a photo I.D. can buy synthetic cocaine at smoke shops or even some convenient stores.

Known as ?bath salts,? some users said it is not poured in a bath, but instead, snorted just like the real drug.

?Kind of like speed, it?s an upper, it gives you energy,? a woman, who did not want to be identified, said, moments after she purchased bath salts at a smoke shop in central Las Cruces.

She described the high she feels from regularly using synthetic cocaine.

?I have no idea what it is, but it just gets you energized,? the woman said. ?I?m going to go clean my house, that?s why I bought it.?

The white, powdery substance is said to provide sudden highs like cocaine and ecstasy. But it also has negative effects like hallucinations, psychotic outbursts and even heart attacks.

The Time Vault in central Las Cruces is just one of many local smoke shops where the drug is being sold over-the-counter.

Brands like "Iced" and "Cloud Nine" cost about $25 for a half-gram, similar to the street value of the real drug.

The main difference from cocaine - it is much easier for users to get their hands on bath salts, and it is legal in New Mexico.

?I?m on probation so I can?t come out dirty,? the woman said.

And that may be why so many others are also using it, the woman said.

?It makes it difficult because the industry is targeting people who are already dealing with issues of addiction,? David Sarabia, a counselor with the Southwest Counseling Center, said.

Ninety percent of Sarabia?s patients are substance abusers.

The unidentified woman who spoke with ABC-7?s New Mexico Mobile Newsroom said, she avoids violation of her probation for a cocaine conviction by regularly using the substitute.

She is not alone, Sarabia said.

?There?s really no standardized testing for bath salts, and so in theory, someone could use them without getting caught,? Sarabia said.

But a statewide ban may not be the answer, Richard Williams, Las Cruces Chief of Police, said.

"What I would like to see is the federal government step up just like they did with synthetic marijuana and ban these sort of substances as well; this is just the newest trend in designer drugs,? Williams said.

For now, it may be the only fix users on probation have without fear of getting caught, the woman said.

?They think it?s so bad and it?s not,? she said.

New Mexico Representative Zach Cook recently introduced a bill that would ban chemicals found in substances like bath salts.

If passed, those caught using it could risk a fourth degree felony.

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