Synthetic drugs are not as common as they once were in the city of Orange, but narcotics officers are still seeing people in possession of the once popular drugs.

According to Robert Estrello, narcotics officer for the Orange Police Department, suspects caught with less than one gram of the illegal drug, bath salts, can be charged with a state jail felony. The amount of time a suspect can receive, “goes up from there”  if they are caught with more of the dangerous drug.

A recent arrest was made after a TABC (Tobacco Alcoholic Beverages Commission) officer went to a convenience store in the 300 block of Lutcher Drive. They opened a door during their investigation and stumbled upon a large amount of synthetic drugs. As a result, after further investigation,  the store owner was arrested, according to Estrello.

The white powdery substance has many street names such as Purple Wave or Vanilla Sky but it’s still the same – Bath Salts.

Short term effects include very severe paranoia which can sometimes cause users to harm themselves. Reported effects have included suicidal thoughts, violent behavior, confusion, chest pain and possibly death. The speed of onset is 15 minutes, while the length of the high from these drugs last four to six hours, according to the CDC.

Before the drug became illegal to possess, users when pulled over would tell the officers they actually had bath salts. Tests at the scene would indicate it was cocaine, but it wasn’t until it was sent to a lab that it could be confirmed as bath salts.

It was in October 2011, the DEA published a final order in the Federal Register to control three of the synthetic stimulants used to make bath salts. Under this order,  the synthetic stimulants are designated as Schedule I substances under the controlled substances act, according to the DEA.

The drugs come from the Houston area. But, they have been sold in all areas of Orange County, Estrello said.

Synthetic marijuana is also a problem in the area as most often it is seen at convenience stores and not sold by drug dealers on the street since most drug users would prefer the real thing instead of the synthetics.

Synthetic marijuana looks similar to the real marijuana, but is more powdery and doesn’t have any leaves present, Estrello said.

Over the course of a few months, investigators with the Orange County Sheriff’s Office investigated a Vidor convenience store after receiving complaints from concerned citizens.

The store located at 585 North Main Street was reportedly selling synthetic marijuana. Investigators were able to purchase the drug for themselves at that location and seized more than six pounds of the illegal drug.  As a result, two arrests were made on felony possession charges.

Like OPD officers, the OSCO deputies also routinely enter stores to see if there is any illegal activity.

In October 2011, the OSCO Narcotics Division conducted an undercover operation targeting several primary location they believed to be actively selling the illegal drugs. Once the drugs were tested and confirmed to be bath salts and synthetic marijuana, then the officers were able to make the arrests. Because of the findings, a search warrant was issued for a store on Highway 105 in Vidor. The owner was still actively selling the drugs and he was arrested and charged with felony possession of a controlled substance, according to information from the OSCO.

Anyone wanting to report any activity of selling the illegal drugs can contact the OPD at 409-883-1026 or the OSCO at 409-882-2612.