Bath Salts Addict Shot Dead by Troopers as Use Rises

By Jennifer Matesa 08/02/11

A fatal hostage situation in Pennsylvania shows how "bath salts" can make users psychotic, expert tells The Fix.

Outside the house: A grim task Photo via

A 29-year-old man struggling with a “bath salts” addiction was shot dead July 28 by Pennsylvania state troopers after taking his mother and two other people hostage in his mother’s Poconos home. Troopers had that morning served Robert J. Kish with a court order requiring him to stay away from the house. Police said Kish prevented his mother and two others from leaving, then set fire to the place. He used a shotgun loaded with birdshot to fire on troopers who had been called to the scene—troopers shot Kish after he approached them with his gun and refused orders to drop it. A few days earlier, Kish had called a Scranton rehab for his addiction to mephedrone—or bath salts—an addictive synthetic drug with amphetamine-like effects. The rehab called back to say a bed was available—a day after his death. Mephedrone use has been on the rise in Pennsylvania, especially among the under-30s, according to Neil Capretto, MD, medical director of Gateway Rehabilitation Center in Pittsburgh. “They can certainly make you psychotic,” Capretto told The Fix. “These are intense stimulants—cocaine and methamphetamine are stimulants, and bath salts are the same. One woman I talked to was on a five-day bath salts run—she really started hallucinating from it. I’ve talked to some guys who say they’re more likely to get into fights on bath salts.” Pennsylvania recently passed legislation banning mephedrone. It will take effect later this month—but Capretto says mephedrone is widely available on the internet and in bordering states, which don't yet have such laws.

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Jennifer Matesa is a Voice Award Fellow at the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and is the author of the blog Guinevere Gets Sober. She is the author of several books, including the non-fiction, The Recovering Body, about physical and spiritual fitness for living clean and sober. You can find Jennifer on Linkedin or follow her on Twitter.