Deputies Raid 7 Stores Suspected of Illegally Selling Dangerous Designer Drugs

POSTED: Thursday, December 15, 2011 - 6:53pm

UPDATED: Saturday, February 4, 2012 - 10:20pm

EL PASO - They're dangerous and illegal, but they're being sold to teenagers in stores all over the Borderland.

They're called "spice" and "bath salts." They're synthetic drugs that people can use to get high.

Sheriff's deputies and DEA agents raided 7 El Paso businesses yesterday suspected of selling the chemicals. They include gas stations, tattoo parlors and smoke shops.

The effects of the drugs can be unpredictable, dangerous and even deadly. Sheriff Richard Wiles held a news conference this afternoon to warn parents about the dangers of illegal designer drugs like "bath salts" and "spice."

"We're concerned about how some of these substances are being marketed,” he said. “In one case the chemical was put on a lolly pop. You can see who that's targeting -- children.

“Spice” usually comes in the form of potpourri or incense. It's sprayed with a synthetic chemical and when smoked, creates a high similar to marijuana.

Experts say "bath salts" are equally toxic and it's not the stuff you put it in your bathtub. “Bath salts" come in powder form and it can be snorted or swallowed. The drug gives users a high similar to cocaine, meth or ecstasy.

"Anytime a user ingests an unregulated substance it's the same as Russian roulette, said DEA Agent Joe Arabit. “You never know what you're going to get until it's too late."

Calls to poison control centers around El Paso and the nation are skyrocketing. Sheriff Wiles is urging parents to warn their kids. And prosecutors are cracking down on businesses that rake in massive profits by selling the substances.

"This wasn't in just one area of town, this was throughout the community, said District Attorney Jaime Esparza. “This offense can be punished."

No arrests were made in yesterday's raids, but investigators say charges still could be filed. "Bath salts" and "spice" were just banned in September.

Anyone caught caught selling the drugs could face a first-degree felony charge, which carries a sentence of up to 99 years in prison.

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I am a caregiver to many addiction recovery patients. These bath salts almost ensure a short lifespan of the user. Bath salts are the scariest drug I've ever dealt with as a professional of 6 years. Please pay close attention if there is a sudden change to very strange and violent behavior. These patients have to be caught early or there is little hope of their recovery.

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