RUMFORD — Tuesday afternoon’s conference hosted by Rumford police on the designer drugs known as bath salts or monkey dust was an eyeopener for Matt Gilbert.

Gilbert is the principal of RSU 10’s Mountain Valley High School where three officials from Bangor gave more than 50 first responders, school, medical and town officials an in-depth look into the rapidly growing epidemic.

“You hear all these stories and (the conference) is removing some of these stories and filling them in with facts,” Gilbert said after Bangor police Lt. Thomas J. Reagan provided an overview of the situation both nationally and in Maine.

He and others learned from Rumford police Sgt. Tracey Higley that some RSU 10 students have used the drug. They also were told that bath salt users re-experience psychotic impairment through flashback-like episodes for three days to three weeks.

“Flashbacks can happen for the next 72 hours,” Reagan said. “Now, this is a real problem.”

He said emergency room staff have treated bath salt users and revived them only to see symptoms flare up again many hours later, often after they’ve been released.

“When we deal with them, we get them and we take them to jail, get them through intake and you sign Symptoms, ‘No, nothing,’ they put them upstairs in the general population, and then 72 hours, 48 hours later or whatever, they start having these recurring issues: anxiety, high body temperatures, high blood pressure, high pulse rates, paranoia,” he said.

“This is 72 hours later. A high school kid uses this stuff on Saturday night. Monday morning math class and this stuff may start kicking back in, so you have to be aware of that.”

Reagan said there are usually three possible stages, the first being stimulant effects which are similar to cocaine. The euphoric state from taking bath salts may last 20 minutes to more than three hours, he said.

The second stage is paranoid delusional. Users no longer feel safe and begin doing things that typically get police involved.

Then comes the critical or toxic stage — excited delirium, which he described as “walking overdose.” He showed a video of police trying to safeguard a man in this stage who fought against several of them for five minutes before dying.

Reagan said it’s imperative to get emergency responders and backup police officers there as soon as possible.

In Bangor, where police deal with bath salt abuse every day, every shift, two officers are to show up if there’s even a remote chance bath salts are involved.

Jay native Rick Redmond, a licensed social worker at Acadia Hospital in Bangor, said one user ripped apart a convenience store, causing more than $10,000 in damage.

“This is a person who really believes someone is trying to kill them,” Redmond said. “The hallucinations cover all five of the senses. They’re hearing, seeing, smelling, tasting and touching things that aren’t there.”

Both Reagan and Rumford police Chief Stacy Carter said their officers, who have been dealing with monkey dust abuse since last year, are increasingly seeing such users arming themselves with firearms to keep hallucinations at bay.

That’s why Carter said they hosted the conference.

“Because of the depression and hallucinations that these people were experiencing, it was our fear that somebody was seriously going to get hurt — either the victim or an innocent person that gets wrapped up in hallucinations unknowingly or law enforcement officers that are dealing with them,” he said.

“This is one of the worst drugs that we’ve seen because of the effects that it’s having on the users — the extreme paranoia and the hallucinations.”

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