A new synthetic drug that moved across the border from Maine into New Brunswick appears to be taking hold in the Maritimes amid concerns that the designer drug, illegal in some countries and some U.S. states, remains legal in Canada.

It's called bath salts -- a cheap fix that can be injected, snorted, smoked and swallowed and a former user wants to warn others not to take it.

"It's dangerous. It can ruin your family relationships," warns 'Mike,' who asked that his real name not be used. "You can really hurt somebody on it, or yourself."

Dr. Nancy Murphy is the medical director at the IWK Regional Poison Centre and she saw firsthand what the psychoactive drug can do when a patient came into a Halifax emergency room in March.

"An aggressive behaviour and a deep-seated paranoia, and sometimes the violent behaviour can be inflicted upon others, or even on themselves," she explains.

"I thought everyone was out to get me," says the former user. "Anyone that tried to help me, I tried to get them."

There is speculation a man who committed a zombie-like cannibal attack on a homeless man in Miami last week may have been under the influence of bath salts.

The heightened mental affect sets this synthetic drug apart from ecstasy and cocaine and the main compound in bath salts, Methylenedioxypyrovalerone or MDPV, has a similar structure to amphetamines so it is not listed in the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act so it is legal in Canada.

Police were surprised when bath salts appeared in the Saint John, N.B. area last fall.

"Those pills were sent away to Health Canada for analysis, and surprisingly they came not as ecstasy, but the main ingredient found in bath salts," says Detective Sgt. Craig MacDougall of the Rothesay Regional Police.

Police in Nova Scotia are also concerned, especially in smaller centres such as Pictou County, where it has grown into a bigger problem.

"It's difficult to deal with in Pictou County," says Deputy Chief Eric MacNeil of the New Glasgow Police.

Officials with Addiction Services for both Cumberland and Pictou Counties say they have been seeing two to three cases of bath salts each week.

"Because organized crime wasn't able to profit as easily from bath salts because of its accessibility, they were keeping it out of the urban centres and that's why it remains primarily a rural drug," says Greg Purvis, the director of Addiction Services for the Cumberland and Pictou County Health Authorities.

A Halifax hydroponics and smoke shop doesn't plan on selling bath salts anytime soon.

"We've heard too many bad things about it and we don't want to carry any of those kinds of substances in this store," says salesperson Louis Albert.

CTV News spoke to a number of high school students about bath salts but they said they weren't familiar with the drug.

'Mike' says he hopes it stays that way.

"Believe it or not, you are hooked after the first time," he says. "I still crave it. It's been a few months and I still crave it."

The Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse has issued an alert about bath salts, but Health Canada has yet to comment on how it intends to proceed.

With files from CTV Atlantic's Felicia Yap