It's a trend U.P. law enforcement has been combating since January 2011--a designer synthetic drug marketed and sold under the guise of "bath salts."
Bath salts are currently listed as an illegal drug in the U.P. You can be charged with a felony offense if you have or sell the drug. But it hasn't always been that way. Several injuries and even deaths were reported before the law came into effect.
Often sold in packets under the name "White Rush" with the words 'not for human consumption' printed on the label, bath salts sat legally on the shelves of U.P. head shops just months ago. Turns out these packets are not a soap at all but what law enforcement officials call a synthetic designer drug that's become deadly.
"People were buying the substance that was being marketed not as a drug, but the subculture, everyone knew it was to be used as a drug," said Prosecuting Attorney Matt Wiese. "People were inhaling it, using hypodermic needles, snorting it."
In Marquette county, emergency rooms have seen up to eight inpatients a day suffering effects of the drug. It's been directly attributed to two deaths in the U.P., but some say there's likely many more.
"This drug has seemed to come in quickly and take over people's lives quickly and have a very negative effect physically and mentally on people's lives," said Upper Peninsula Substance Enforcement Team Detective Lt. George Sailor.
We spoke firsthand with users who wished to remain anonymous. They say the addiction to the drug surpasses even more widely-known substances like meth and cocaine.
"It feels like you got catapult, somebody shot you to the moon," said one user. "I think the longest I stayed up was ten days. I would just do it and just keep doing it every three to five hours. To boot, it was legal, so I was like, how bad can a legal drug be?"
It's been illegal to sell or own since August, but it's still out there. Users say it's easy to get, and they'll spend hundreds of dollars on the drug in just a week's time, unable to escape from its addictive grasp.
"It's the ugliest feeling in the world; you just want to lay in bed and do nothing," said another user. "Wait for somebody to call and get more drugs. I want to quit. I went into inpatient rehab 13 times. Obviously, it hasn't worked. I think I'll die."
We'll have more about the physical and psychological effects in part two of our series Tuesday.