Houston area gets new tool to fight drug use, manufacturing

By Robert Arnold - Investigative Reporter

HOUSTON - Members of the Houston High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area gathered Thursday to announce a new initiative in combating drug-related problems in southeast Texas.

The initiative is aimed at helping communities stretching from Beaumont, to Montgomery County, down to Corpus Christi.

Officials with the Houston office of the Drug Enforcement Administration said the initiative involves the launching of several community specific websites, including StopDrugsHouston.org, that will provide a wide range of information on drug-related topics, as well as a way for the community to anonymously report drug dealing and tips on wanted drug fugitives.

One area of focus involves what federal agents said is the growing problem of synthetic drugs. DEA officials report as many as 400 different types of synthetic drugs are being sold in the US.

Drug enforcement agents added the Houston area has become a manufacturing hub for synthetic drugs, with many of the illegal products being packaged to appeal to children.

Texas recently passed a law making hundreds of synthetic drug combinations illegal. Prior to the passage of the new law, police had troubling cracking down on the sale of synthetic drugs because manufacturers would constantly change the chemical make-up to skirt existing laws.

"I felt like a zombie. I didn't feel like myself anymore," said Jeff Johnson. "The things that I enjoyed doing, I wasn't doing anymore."

Johnson told KPRC 2 he battled drug addiction for 10 years. Johnson said he is now sober and a licensed drug and alcohol counselor. Johnson said after he quit other drugs he tried synthetics, because at the time the drugs were legal and he mistakenly believed they would simply mimic the effects of marijuana. However, Johnson said the side effects ranged from insomnia to an eating disorder.

"I would not be able to eat food unless I was high. I remember times I wasn't high on it, I would try eating and I would throw it up so I would have to get high just to eat," said Johnson.

Johnson said the intense, yet brief, high spurred him to consume more and more of the drug.

"The withdrawals I had from synthetic marijuana were worse than heroin," said Johnson.

Johnson, who focuses on getting kids off drugs, warns the widely different chemical cocktails used to make synthetic drugs can, even with a single use, cause brain damage, seizures or death.

"If I had read those stories about all those permanent brain stuff going on, permanent things that affect me for the rest of your life, I would never have touched it," said Johnson.

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