Former synthetic marijuana user in rehab shares nightmare
19-year-old says he knows people who have died using designer drugs
K-2, spice and synthetic weed are sold at convenience stores, don't show up on drug tests and can provide a fatal high.
Parents may not be familiar with the designer drugs, but chances are their children or their classmates have. According to a study conducted at the University of Michigan, more than one in 10 high school seniors have tried synthetic marijuana.
Local 2's Owen Conflenti spoke with a former user who has a warning for anyone who's tempted to take a hit.
"As soon as you see the some go up, that's your soul leaving your body," said Spencer, a rehab patient.
Spencer was 19-years-old when he first tried synthetic marijuana. The habit landed him in rehab.
"Every time I did it, I kind of looked forward to it," Spencer said. "I wasn't even six months into it and it started to get bad."
He knew he'd get high every time he used, but that high would eventually turn into pain.
"It feels good for a second and then after a while it hurts," Spencer said. "Stomach pains, head throbbing, insane. It's insane."
Others have suffered kidney problems, fallen into comas and suffered fatal heart attacks.
"I've known of some people that have passed because of synthetic weed and spice and stuff like that," Spencer said.
Roy Ortega is treating Spencer at the CENIKOR treatment facility in Houston.
"At one time it was rare. But now it's pretty common, pretty much all the young guys have at least tried it one time," said Ortega.
Local 2 Investigates has shown you massive synthetic marijuana raids at warehouses across southeast Texas.
Despite state and federal bans, the designer drugs are plentiful and easily obtained in the Houston area. The brightly colored packets are usually sold at convenience stores and smoke shops. It's often labeled potpourri, plant food, and even Scooby snacks – marketing that appeals to kids.
"It's a cheap high. They think it's all right because everybody is doing it, so it's pretty appealing," said Ortega.
Spencer said he thinks he'll spend another six to eight months in rehab. Right now, he's focusing on work and his family.
“The people that love me, just hanging around with them a lot more because they're the ones that love me," Spencer said.
Synthetic marijuana has been illegal in Texas since 2011. Anyone caught with it could face prison time and steep fines.