The parents of 19-year-old Connor Eckhardt, who died after smoking just one hit of a synthetic drug which he bought from a Santa Ana smoke shop, are working hard to raise awareness about these highly dangerous “legal highs” that are taking young lives around the nation. Devin and Veronica Eckhardt went through what anyone would characterize as “every parent’s worst nightmare” and they are sharing their story publicly with the hopes that others can avoid a similar tragedy.
Connor fell into a coma, suffered irreparable brain damage and died at Hoag Hospital in Newport Beach on July 16, 2014 after taking a single hit of a synthetic drug called spice. Connor’s father, Devin Eckhardt, says his son, like most people, thought this New Psychoactive Substance (NPS) was somehow safe and gave into a moment of peer pressure with a friend. But after that seemingly innocent decision, not feeling well, Connor went to “sleep it off” and never woke up.
What are Synthetic Drugs (NPSs) and Just How Dangerous Are They?
What are synthetic drugs? Basically, they are a class of designer drugs comprising psychoactive chemicals, usually mixed with solvents such as acetone. These drugs attempt to mimic the effects of the THC compound naturally found in marijuana. But experts say NPSs can be 1,000 times more potent and produce numerous severe, and sometimes permanent, side-effects.
Synthetic drugs are deceptively marketed and packaged as legal and safe. Sold at local smoke shops, gas stations or convenience stores, they are easily accessible and even available over the internet. Often packaged with happy cartoon characters and colorful packaging, they’re aimed at our youth, and come in a variety of forms (i.e. shredded plant-type herbs/potpourri for smoking, liquids used in drinks or vap-pipes and even candy forms).
While sometimes referred to as “synthetic marijuana,” “fake pot,” or a “legal” substitute, these synthetic drugs are not safe in any dose and should never be used. Consumers have no idea what they’re getting or how toxic they may be, making synthetic drugs possibly the most dangerous drug out there.
Various laws attempt to make these products illegal, however, underground chemists continually change the molecular structures to stay a step ahead of legislative controls that are put in place making it very difficult to control or regulate synthetic drugs.
Connor thought as many do – this was a legal buzz, easy to find, inexpensive, and safe. Tragically, thousands 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 have shared Connor’s Facebook page in efforts to educate others (facebook.com/Connor-Reid-Eckhardt-270455916494386).
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), NPSs/synthetic drugs killed 15 people in the first half of 2015 – three times as many as the same period in 2014. Poison control centers nationwide have reported a 229 percent increase in phone calls related to the use of the drugs since January 2015.
Help Create Awareness
Synthetic drugs are easy to obtain and can be bought online or in smoke shops, just as Connor did. Synthetic drugs are sold under a variety of names such as Crazy Clown, Black Mamba, K2 and Spice. Some of the common side effects include agitation, palpitations, racing heart, kidney failure, heart failure, lethargy, profuse vomiting or foaming of the mouth, psychosis, zombie-like states, hallucinations and confusion (to name a few).
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.
It is important for the public to know the harmful, lethal effects of these drugs. The Eckhardts should be commended for making an effort to ensure that no other parent goes through the nightmare they are experiencing. The Eckhardt’s have established a foundation in honor of their son that is dedicated to raising awareness, education and prevention regarding synthetic drugs. Visit the website at www.Doit4Connor.org and visit the Connor Reid Eckhardt Facebook page.
There are many ways in which you can help their cause. You could share your personal story on their website. You could make a donation to help spread the word and create more awareness about the dangers of synthetic marijuana. We at Bisnar Chase stand with the Eckhardts and wish them well on this noble journey.