BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - It's a designer drug that many users believe is a free pass to getting high. However, there is a steep price to pay when lighting up synthetic marijuana.
"Suicide ideations, homicidal ideations, we've heard a lot of that," said James Truax, Chemical Dependency Manger at the Tau Center.
Synthetic Marijuana came on the scene nearly a decade ago, legally sold under a "not for human consumption" label. The drug is usually some sort of material that can be smoked, sprayed with a potent and dangerous mixture of chemicals. After seeing the alarming and often violent effects, law enforcement began outlawing the chemicals used. However, producers change the compounds constantly, making it hard for laws to keep up. It also makes the drug itself completely unpredictable.
"I was completely belligerent. I was screaming at everybody, throwing stuff. I was mad. I was mean. I didn't care about anybody," said former user Brooklyn Besson.
Scotty Smith and his girlfriend Besson say they smoked synthetic pot every day. Besson started with a relative. Smith started when he and Besson began dating. For two years, the couple says finding their high was the only thing that mattered, even if it meant destroying everything and everyone around them.
"We absolutely didn't have anywhere to live but my grandparent's house," said Besson. "Then, we stole their guns and pawned them. And it got bad."
"I didn't know that something I can usually walk in a shop and get was going to make me lose pretty much everything that I got," said Smith.
Smith's mother, Christy Guy, says her son eventually snapped. His behavior became so frightening that she called the coroner. Smith was committed and sent to the Tau Center to detox. Besson followed a few days later.
"He was screaming, I hate you, I'm never going to talk to you again, I hate you, I hate you, I hate everybody. Every day he would call me and say he wanted to die," said Guy.
Though it wasn't easy, the two made it through treatment and are starting to rebuild their lives and repair their relationships. However, they didn't escape without scars. Both suffered extreme weight loss, permanent damage to the liver and heart, and nightmares wait every time they close their eyes. They are also dealing with fallout from the law enforcement and facing thousands of dollars in fines. Believe it or not, they could be considered lucky.
We're seeing nausea that keeps going on, body aches. We see the delusions going on, the psychotic behaviors going on; people just kind of talking about themselves," explained Truax.
According to Truax, the constant change in the chemical makeup that challenges law enforcement is also what makes synthetic weed so hard to treat. Truax explains that each person reacts differently and some people never recover. Even more frightening, he says people can experience psychotic break like episodes months after detoxing. Truax says synthetic weed is one of the scariest drugs he's ever dealt with.
"Even ones who have been long time marijuana smokers will come in and say, I'm not doing that stuff again because it took me somewhere I didn't want to go," said Truax.
Those that have returned, have a message.
"It's not a good way to live," said Smith.