KILGORE - by Kris Kirst, Sasha Wilson
Kilgore police arrested two people in separate incidents relating to synthetic marijuana usage Wednesday night, including one person who was found passed out in a car that was against a tree, engine still running.
According to a Facebook post, police arrested one person after a reported reckless driver seen hitting a curb and guard rail before hitting another vehicle. Police say no one was hurt, but the driver was arrested for DWI.
The second arrest came about after an officer on patrol saw a car, still running, resting against a tree in a residential area. Upon investigation, the driver was found passed out with one foot on the brake and the vehicle still in drive. Once lucid, the driver did admit to smoking synthetic marijuana, and he was also charged with DWI.
Kilgore police warn about these arrests because:
We've included a photograph of the substance located for public awareness purposes. This is different from previous cases, as this is being bought in unlabeled bags as opposed to the flashy packages that were previously sold out of stores.
This is a public safety concern and any use of this substance (or similar) is extremely dangerous. Please share.
Synthetic marijuana is so dangerous because its designed to mimic the look and effects of real marijuana but is sprayed with chemicals that are not regulated.
Authorities said it is popular because it is difficult to detect in a normal drug test, but being in possession of it is illegal in the state of Texas.
We spoke with a former synthetic marijuana user, Caleb Jones, to find out how it impacted his life. He said to use synthetic drugs can mean death.
"Its so dangerous, it really is,” said Jones. “I have friends that have died over it and I can’t bring them back. It's because we wanted to have fun and it was fun for the moment but that's not what its about."'
Ingesting unidentified substances is a gamble with life, especially because manufacturers change the chemical compounds to dodge laws. Few can say what chemicals are in synthetic marijuana, or how they will react with the body.
"I’d wake up and wonder where I’m at,” Jones said. “My body would be sick from it but what I didn’t like the most was the seizures I had on it. That's a scary thing."
Kilgore police have worked diligently to keep synthetic drugs out of their communities and said they have not had many cases recently, which is why these two cases were unusual. Equally unusual, the bags police recovered Thursday evening were unmarked. Most bags are sold with flashy graphics and designs.
Public Information Officer Darrell Coslin with the Smith County Sheriff's Office said they have poured time and resources into fighting synthetic drug use in Smith County, therefore it is no longer a frequent problem. He agreed with Jones however, that any case of synthetic cannabinoids use is a public health concern. He said the side effects can be extreme.
"Severe hallucinations, accelerated heartrate, health issues that come from the ingesting of this product and even times where death is involved," Coslin said. “It can cause schizophrenia, and that is a permanent condition.”
The substance is packaged and shipped from overseas, Coslin said, and designed to target young people.
"When you have something that is specifically targeting our children, and misleading them into something, we see that as a huge problem as far as the health and safety of our community and anytime we see that we’re going to jump in with everything we have and try to stop that."
Jones has been sober for months and asked anyone who is considering using synthetic marijuana to do their research, or just ask someone else who has tried it. For those addicted to it, he said he found healing in Jesus and if they just reach out for help, there is hope in recovery.
"The world is wanting us to try different things but the thing is, it could be that one time and then that be it, you could die, it's not worth it,” Jones said. “It destroys families, it destroys your whole life.”
Kilgore police tell us 27-year-old Raymond Brown of Kilgore and 19-year-old Shunterius Johnson of White Oak were both arrested for DWI in these incidents.
if you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, you can call the Hiway 80 Rescue Mission at (903) 759-8101.
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