Connor Eckhardt was your typical California teen who enjoyed surfing, skateboarding, and snowboarding. But July 11, 2014 was not your typical day and was the worst day imaginable for Connor and his family. On that day, Connor inhaled one hit, just one hit, of a synthetic drug known as Spice or K2, and slipped into a coma and never woke up again. Connor was just 19 years old at the time of his death (www.doit4Connor.org). Connor’s story begins with his love of his family, of the outdoors and his home town Roseville, California. A suburb of Sacramento, Roseville, is one of the largest cities in Placer County with a population of about 130,000 people. Roseville, like so many other US cities, is a great place to live and work and has a relatively low crime rate. In addition to Connor’s passion of outdoor activities, he enjoyed music and was going to be a worship leader and songwriter. Connor also had a passion for missions work. In other words, Connor was a young man with hopes and dreams, looking to his future.
So what happened?
In a moment of peer pressure, Connor decided to try this synthetic drug, also known as Spice or K2, (synthetic drugs go by a wide variety of different names), as so many other teens and young adults have done in towns and cities across our nation. However, shortly after just taking that one hit of Spice, Connor didn’t feel well and laid down to “sleep it off.” He never woke up again.
How could this happen?
Synthetic drugs, may seem legal and safe. They can be sold at your local smoke shop or convenience store alongside other items we use every day. They can be packaged with happy cartoon characters and look like candy. It can be marketed as “synthetic marijuana,” “fake pot,” or a “legal” substitute…but these synthetic drugs are not safe and they are not some sort of alternative to marijuana. How could they be harmful? Not only are they not safe, they can be deadly and cause severe side effects.
So what is a synthetic drug?
First of all, synthetic drugs, (or NPS’s–New Psychoactive Drugs as they are known) are really poisons. They are not made in some white-coat laboratory. These NPSs are being fabricated by underground chemists and sold to our youth. There’s no regulation and inspection of the chemicals and compounds of synthetic drugs. Each synthetic drug packet varies in strength and the types of chemicals being used can be totally different from packet to packet even within the same brand name. For example, one packet can cause severe side effects, including death, while another packet from the same batch may have milder effects. Additionally, since each person’s brain chemistry is different, the same packet can have significantly different effects from person to person. There is no “reliable” or “safe” brand of synthetics and no amount taken can be considered safe.
Aren’t synthetic drugs legal?
While these drugs were initially “legal” they continue to be readily available. The underground chemists are continually changing the molecular structures to stay a step ahead of any legislation controls that are put in place making it very difficult to control or regulate synthetic drugs. Synthetic drugs continue to be easy to acquire and are even available over the Internet or at convenience stores, gas stations and head shops. This availability adds to the confusion regarding the safety and legality of these products. One of the most significant dangers of these drugs is the lack of consistency in the manufacturing process (i.e. dosages and chemicals used are inconsistent). These substances are not tested or approved for human consumption and are often compared to a game of “Russian Roulette” for the user. There are no safe dosages and none of these products are approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
Connor thought the same as many kids – this was a legal buzz, easy to find, inexpensive, and safe. Tragically, thousands of youth all around the world are learning otherwise. Over 8,000 cases have been reported in the United States this year alone, and the trend is growing–this is a worldwide epidemic. Millions of families have written to Connor’s parents to tell their story or shared Connor’s Facebook page in efforts to educate others. Synthetic drugs are marketed towards young kids and teens. They are deceptively packaged to look attractive and safe. Synthetics now even come in liquid and candy forms. This creates a confusing landscape with a lot of deceptive messages.
Connor didn’t know the facts about synthetic drugs. He didn’t have this information and took one, just one hit of this synthetic drug and had an immediate bad reaction. He didn’t feel well and laid down thinking he would sleep it off. No one checked on him until the next morning when he was found non-responsive, and only then was he rushed to the hospital. While at the hospital, Connor’s medical tests did not detect Spice/K2 in his system. This is fairly common because synthetic drugs do not show up in the typical drug and alcohol tests. In fact, testing and identifying synthetic drugs is very difficult due to the ever changing ingredients and components in these drugs making it very difficult for scientists to develop a standardized way to test for them.
In July 2014, Connor Reid Eckhardt with his family at his side, passed away. His family has dedicated their lives to informing others of the dangers of synthetic drugs. Through their efforts Devin and Veronica Eckhardt honor the memory of their son Connor. Their hope is that by sharing their tragic story, young people and parents will be educated and made aware of the dangers of synthetic drugs. Please visit the Connor Reid Eckhardt Facebook page. The “ConnorProject” at Instagram and “@stopsynthetics” on Twitter.