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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Police say man was eating dirt while handcuffed; ‘bath salts’ overdose suspected


    The same day an Alton woman was taken to a hospital and later died from a suspected overdose of the synthetic drug commonly sold as “”bath salts,”” a Granite City man was rushed to an emergency room after possibly overdosing on the drug.

    Jeffrey Hodge, 26, of the 2700 block of Iowa, was found at 7:42 p.m. Tuesday in the 2500 block of Lincoln Avenue by police, who were responding to a report of a man “”yelling and acting crazy,”” Granite City Police Major Jeff Connor said.

    Hodge was placed under arrest for disorderly conduct, Connor said. He was conscious when police arrived and told them he had taken bath salts.

    “”He was actually eating the dirt while he was handcuffed,”” Connor said. “”That’s how crazy he was acting.””

    Police became concerned with his well-being. He eventually lost consciousness and was taken to the emergency room before he was transferred to Saint Louis University Hospitalwhere he remained Thursday night.

    “”He’s still in very serious condition,”” Connor said.

    How much of the substance he ingested or which brand of bath salts he had used was not revealed because the case is under investigation.

    Tuesday morning, Tonia Whitehead, 28, was taken to Alton Memorial Hospital after she was found unresponsive at her home at 417 Brookside Ave. in Alton. She died the following morning from a suspected overdose of bath salts, but authorities are awaiting toxicology tests to confirm an official cause of death.

    That would be the first fatal overdose of bath salts in Madison County.

    The Alton Board of Aldermen responded to the death by unanimously passing an ordinance Wednesday that outlaws the possession, distribution and delivery of substances such as MDPV and mephedrone that are commonly found in the drugs marketed as bath salts. The Granite City Council had passed a similar measure April 19, and Madison County is also looking at adopting such an ordinance, Sheriff’s Capt. Brad Wells said.

    The bath salts are sold in liquor stores, convenience stores and head shops under several different street names, including, Ivory Wave, Cloud 9 and Ocean. Abusers typically inject or snort the drugs, which have been blamed for drug overdoses across the country, according to the federal Drug Enforcement Administration.

    The drugs, which are synthetic stimulants, are not illegal under state or federal law, although there is pending legislation in both jurisdictions to outlaw the substances.

    Alton Police arrested three employees Tuesday of Broadway Package Liquor Store at 2775 East Broadway where the drugs that Whitehead had ingested were purchased, as well as an acquaintance of Whitehead’s, but no charges were filed as of Thursday.

    The Madison County State’s Attorney’s office is reviewing case law to see what charges can be filed because the drug Whitehead died from may not have contained a banned substance, according office spokeswoman Stephanee Smith.

    Whitehead took a new batch of the drugs, and investigators are now testing the substance, said Illinois State Police Master Sgt. Joe Beliveau, who spoke Thursday about the dangers of bath salts and other drug abuse trends at the Sixth Annual Metro East Methamphetamine and Other Drugs Conference in Belleville. Police had seized samples of similar synthetic drugs from the same store to test the drugs, but they did not find any controlled substances in the products.

    The drugs are not literally used as bath salts, and are packaged with the warning, “”Not for human consumption,”” Beliveau said.

    They cause suicidal tendencies even after the drug use ends, Beliveau said. He mentioned how Whitehead suffered from depression after her 5-year-old son was killed inSeptember 2008 by her former boyfriend, Frank Price.

    The drugs work similar to amphetamines, said Dr. Christopher Long, who is the director of forensic and environmental toxicology at the Saint Louis University School of Medicine.

    “”You get a rush very similar to cocaine,”” Long said.

    Users of the drug can experience rising blood pressure and hallucinations from taking as little as 200 milligrams of the drug, or the same amount of salt someone would put on a steak, Long said.

    Users’ temperatures can reach 107 degrees.

    “”Even if they survive their brain is fried,”” Long said.

    Someone who suffers a fatal overdose would basically die of a heart attack, he said.

    The university’s laboratory, which conducts toxicology testing for coroner’s offices on both sides of the Mississippi River in the St. Louis area, handled zero fatal overdoses of the drug last year, he said, but there have been some lately.

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