EL CAJON (CNS) - Law enforcement officials, business leaders and community activists plan to fan out through downtown El Cajon Friday to urge merchants to voluntarily refrain from selling increasingly popular types of recreational drugs marketed under such innocent-sounding labels as "bath salts," "spice," and "incense."
During the effort, the proprietors of 138 stores in the eastern San Diego County city will get letters asking them to decline to sell the dangerous mind-altering substances, according to police. Officials were unsure how many of the businesses currently stock the products, Lt. Mark Coit said.
Though the drugs are illegal under several recent California laws, they can be chemically "tweaked" just enough to make them fall outside the bounds of the legislation while retaining their psychoactive properties, Coit said.
The compounds generally are disguised with deceptive brand names, such as Blizzard, Blue Silk, Charge, Ivory Snow, Ivory Wave, Ocean Burst, Pure Ivory, Purple Wave, Snow Leopard, Stardust, Vanilla Sky, White Dove, White Knight and White Lightning.
Despite the innocuous branding, the substances are synthetic stimulants that carry serious risks of overdose, hallucinations and even death, according to physicians and law enforcement officials. Abusers snort, smoke and inject the concoctions intravenously and can experience rapid heartbeat, high blood pressure, chest pains, agitation, hallucinations, extreme paranoia and delusions.
In El Cajon, authorities documented six medical emergencies caused by the designer drugs over the last year. Each of them involved patients who required hospital care, according to Coit.
In January and February 2011, abuse of the substances resulted in more than 250 calls to U.S. poison centers, well over the 236 received nationwide during all of 2010, officials said.
Last month, the El Cajon City Council authorized Police Chief Jim Redman to send the voluntary-compliance letters and approved a request by Redman and City Manager Doug Williford to draft an ordinance that would make the distribution of the drugs a public nuisance.
The latter strategy was undertaken by the county Board of Supervisors in March.