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'Only a matter of time' before drug hits city

'Bath salts' linked to horrific attacks

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The horrifying new drug called bath salts that is said to have caused cannibalistic attacks has not yet hit Winnipeg streets, authorities say.

The RCMP and Winnipeg police have no reported cases of the drug in Manitoba, but Larry Larson, founder of the Recovery Centre for Addiction, Trauma and Families, says "it's only a matter of time.

"I assume it will become more prominent in Winnipeg because of the abundance of cocaine and crack cocaine use. I'm anticipating that it will start becoming a big problem," said Larson. "I wouldn't be surprised if it was already here."

The federal government is taking steps against the drug, methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV), despite the few reported incidents in Canada. Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq announced plans on June 5 to make bath salts illegal in Canada.

MDPV is the active agent used in bath salts, a new street drug referred to as the "zombie drug." The drug is linked to a May 26 incident in Miami in which Rudy Eugene, 31, allegedly attacked Ronald Poppo, 65, and began ripping his face apart with his teeth and refused to stop. Eugene was shot and killed at the scene.

Another similar incident occurred when Louisiana man Carl Jacquneaux, 43, allegedly bit off a portion of neighbour Todd Credeur's face. Symptoms of the drug's use include violent behaviour, hallucinations and paranoia.

When asked if she was worried about bath salts ending up in Manitoba, St. Boniface MP Shelly Glover said, "I'm always worried."

Originally synthesized as a stimulant in 1964, bath salts are a white, powdery substance whose physical similarities to cocaine make it difficult to differentiate. Bath salts contain amphetamine-type stimulants and is said to be marketed as a form of ecstasy.

Aglukkaq said the government will list MDPV on Schedule 1 of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, which categorizes the drug with heroin and cocaine. Regulating it will make possessing, trafficking, importation, exporting and producing the drug illegal unless authorized.

The drug is already illegal in the United States.

"Let's be clear. These are not typical household bath salts. They are not the Epsom salts or the scented crystals that you find in many Canadian homes and pharmacies," Aglukkaq told reporters. "These are drugs, serious drugs."

While bath salts have gone unreported in Manitoba, Glover said the threat cannot be ignored.

"It seems to have been something that we're hearing about more and more in Nova Scotia and Ontario," Glover, who made the announcement with Aglukkaq, told the Free Press.

"There have been a number of seizures from different substances and more than 100 of them contained this MDPV."

Health Canada announced it would regulate MDPV on June 9 in the Canada Gazette. The public has until July 10 to comment.

"We are always trying to stay one step ahead of these chemists of these drugs," Glover said.

"Organized crime is behind a lot of these drugs that make their way into our communities. We're always worried when we hear of a new drug. We're just trying to give police officers the tools they need to fight them."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 18, 2012 A12

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