Huntington County Fights Against Drugs

By Rachel Martin

March 13, 2012 Updated Mar 13, 2012 at 11:16 PM EDT

HUNTINGTON, Ind. (Indiana’s NewsCenter) – Local law enforcement sponsored a public convocation at Huntington North High School informing families about the dangerous effects of the synthetic drugs, K-2/Spice and bath salts.

"An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” said Jeremy Gulley, Huntington North’s principal. Tuesday night, local law enforcement, county leaders, and local pastors held an informational meeting explaining why these drugs are so dangerous. Huntington County Sheriff, Terry Stoffel, says K-2/Spice and bath salts are an escalating problem among families in Huntington County.

“Call it what you want to, but it’s really messing our kids up bad!” Stoffel said.

More and more teens and young adults are getting their hands on these synthetic drugs, and because they’re not illegal, people think it's okay to use them.

“That’s the problem with this. It is so serious, the effect that this has on the human body, and conception is from the kids is that you can buy it at convenience store so it can’t be that bad for you.”

K-2 Spice is a synthetic form of marijuana that resembles potpourri. It’s sprayed with a dangerous chemical compound. Bath salts are a powder that looks and is used like meth. It can be smoked with a crack pipe, or melted and injected. However, both cause a more powerful high than marijuana, cocaine, and meth, and have more severe side effects like heart attacks, seizures, and hallucinations.

“Our jail is packed with people who’ve done some pretty serious crimes and looking at some pretty serious prison time actually,” Stoffel said. “One shook a baby so bad, it’s basically brain dead.”

One of those people in jail is Joseph Elser. He gave a testimony at the convocation as to why these drugs need to be taken off the street. Elser says he was high off bath salts for three days when he broke into a nursing home and tried to steal the hearse. He woke up the funeral director and broke his nose and his ribs.

“He had to read the police report because he didn’t even remember what he did,” Stoffel said.

“I was hallucinating, pointing a fake gun at him, but I had no gun at all,” Elser said. “When they arrested me they found 150 controlled substances on me. From the side effects of the bath salts I had no clue how I got the pills.”

Elser says he has no recollection of what happened that night. He says he’s witnessed people having seizures and hallucinating, trying to get out of doors that “weren’t there.” He even had a friend go into cardiac arrest from using bath salts. Elser’s spent the past six months at the Huntington County jail. He was charged with three Class D felonies and a Class A misdemeanor. He will now move to a prison for four years.

“I’m just coming here tonight because I really believe that bath salt is...it's worse than methamphetamines. I'd rather see someone use meth than bath salt,” Elser said. “If I can come down here and change one young kid's mind about using the bath salt and not end up going to prison and doing 4 due 2 years or something, then maybe I did my job.”

Currently these drugs are banned in Indiana, but Stoffel says they’re not illegal yet. Huntington County Prosecutor, Amy Richison, says state lawmakers are working on bills to do so, and one has already gone through the House and Senate and is waiting to be signed by Governor Daniels. Richison says because there is no "traceable" intoxication, it cannot be picked up by drugs tests, and the chemical compounds are always changing, so it’s difficult to regulate. Often “retailers” will change a molecule in the chemical compound that will no longer make it illegal. Because of this, authorities say the best prevention is to educate the public.

“Whether the bill is signed, not signed, this week, next week, that this stuff is dangerous and it messes you up and it’s a misconception that this stuff is safe because there’s nothing safe about it at all,” said Stoffel.




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