COTTONWOOD HEIGHTS (News4Utah) – Cottonwood Heights police officers were caught by surprised Wednesday morning when an initial burglary call turned into a drug lab bust.
“It was surprising, so we were a little bit alarmed. We don’t see this very often. Anytime we get a call out for a lab that’s been discovered, we want to make sure we’re containing it and make sure the public isn’t exposed to that,” said Matthew Sandberg, group supervisor for the Utah Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
Multiple officers were sent to the hospital after they obtained a warrant and searched through the suspect’s vehicle. They reported burning in their eyes, nose, and throat from being exposed to a dimethyltryptamine (DMT) lab inside the suspect’s vehicle.
“It’s a result of their exposure to the solvents that are used to extract the drug. Like any other solvent when they’re in a small area, they tend to build. In this case, when the officers were exposed, it had an effect sort of like gasoline,” said Sandberg.
So what is dimethyltryptamine?
Sandberg explained dimethyltryptamine is extracted from a root that was originally used to create hallucinations during religious ceremonies in South America. But now, its extract is used as a psychedelic drug in the United States in the form of a powder that can be smoked, injected, or snorted.
“Once you ingest it, it’s very fast acting. Within 10 to 15 seconds, it’ll have a very powerful effect on the body. Like other hallucinogens, you can have audio or visual disturbances,” said Sandberg. “Once exposed, there would be a period of time where you’re not really in control of your faculties and who knows what you’ll be doing during that time period?”
Christina Zidow, chief operating officer for Odyssey House said dimethyltryptamine usage has been reported among adolescents.
“I think Utah parents should always be concerned about what their kids are up to and how they’re having fun. The best way for us to intervene is having data-informed conversations with our kids about what is safe, what’s not safe, and ways to deal with social pressure,” said Zidow.
Zidow said the drug is not addictive and they haven’t seen any cases at Odyssey House where a patient had to seek treatment for usage of DMT. But she said it could have damaging health impacts if used in high dosage.
“It impacts the serotonin neurotransmitters in the brain. You can develop a serotonin syndrome, especially if you’re already on an anti-depressant or something that’s impacting serotonin levels in the brain,” said Zidow.
But should parents be concerned about this drug making its rounds in Utah? Sandberg said no.
“We don’t anticipate this to be something that’s going to increase in use here in Utah. We think it’s one of those things where we only see cases once in a while. In the last six years, we’ve only seen it four times,” said Sandberg. “It’s really difficult to extract the DMT from the root bark. Even the root bark is hard to get and it’s a long process to extract to only get a small amount.”