The so-called "Causeway Cannibal" put synthetic drugs on the radar for millions of parents who had not heard of them before.
Created to mimic the effects of marijuana, cocaine, LSD, and/or ecstasy, the products go by dozens, if not hundreds of different names. While never saying that the before mentioned drugs are "safe," synthetic drugs are extremely dangerous and increasingly deadly.
While synethic drugs like spice and bath salts are widely popular across the country, there are very low levels of usage here in California so far.
I wanted to share with you a story about how proactive parenting may have been able to prevent the latest bath salts tragedy, and could certainly prevent one here.
While not nearly as grotesque, macabre, or sickly fascinating as some people may find the face-eating attack in Miami, there is a story out of Minnesota that will tear the hearts out of families here in Laguna Niguel.
A summer night of fun for five teens resulted in the death of 17-year-old Elijah Stai.
The night started out seemingly innocent enough. The boys were at the home of 18-year-old Adam Budge. They were cooking in the kitchen, and Budge’s father was in the next room.
But being home wasn't enough in this case.
Apparently unbeknownst to the father was that the kids were melting chocolate and mixing a white powdery substance, they thought was an extract of hallucinogenic mushrooms.
After picking up two girls, including Stai's sister, the kids returned to the Budge home. The boys had arranged a sleepover there. Stai’s mother would pick up the girls.
A few hours later, Stai was shaking, growling, and foaming at the mouth. Witnesses also said that he started to smash his head against the ground, acting as if he was “possessed.”
Budge dismissed it as a "bad trip," as he had previously overdosed on a similar substance was hospitalized earlier in the year.
Despite Stai actions and racing pulse, Budge helped Stai to bed and treated him with a cool cloth to the head.
At this point Budge and the other teen notified Budge's father, again assuring him that Stai was just on a "bad trip."
Despite Budge’s father and Stai’s mother discussing the matter through numerous text messages, and Stai's mother picking up the girls before midnight, nobody called 9-1-1 or took Elijah Stai to the hospital.
Budge's father thought about taking him, but was assured that Stai just needed to sleep it off.
Two hours later, Stai was not breathing.
Now Adam Budge faces murder charges.
Did the kids know they were taking synthetic drugs? According to police, Budge went to buy $100 worth of marijuana, but was then sold what he thought was extract of psychedelic mushrooms. Turns out it was a synthetic drug called “25i-NBMOe,” otherwise known as 2C-I.
Two families shattered.
The Stai's are burying Elijah.
And the Budge's now have a son that faces a third-degree murder charge, a second-degree manslaughter charge, and a charge of selling a controlled substance to a juvenile.
As good of parents as we are, our kids can sometimes make critical mistakes that have terrible outcomes.
There are many lessons to remind us.
1. Ask questions. Ask LOTS of questions. Parents can never be too invasive when it comes to their child's life, health, or safety. Elijah's Stai's mother will never be able to ask her son a question ever again.
2. Never hesitate for a second to take your child to the ER or call 9-1-1 if they are acting erratically. Parents who argue against home drug testing typically give me the answer: "I'd know if my kid were on drugs." If you can see something wrong, something as visibly wrong as foaming at the mouth and banging one's head into the wall, get help immediately. What good is it to fear legal repercussions for yourself or your child, if you end up losing them?
3. Know what's in your child's room, car, and in your home. In addition to the synthetic drugs, detectives also found marijuana, malt liquor bottles, a bottle of rum, and two prescription drug bottles with the Stai’s sister's name on it in Budge's room. What parent allows drugs into their home regardless if their kid is 12 or 22?
4. Discuss drugs with your teens routinely. Tell them what these substances are, how dangerous they are, and explain to them the warning signs. An 18-year-old is not a doctor, and cannot diagnose the difference between a "bad trip" and someone dying. Too many times we see deaths where one teen overdoses on a substance, and their friends or parents are afraid to get help because they worry about the law. As most of us know, there's a huge difference between being a tattletale, and lifesaver. Pretending like these substances don't exist is a mistake.
5. Remind your kids to be cautious when someone hands them something to eat or drink at a party, gathering, or if they're old enough, a bar. Whether it is a drink laced with GHB (the date rape drug,) a brownie made with marijuana, or something as innocent as a chocolate that could be mixed with synthetic drugs, your children always need to think twice about what someone is handing them.
Summer is a time for fun. And a scenario where five kids are spending the evening at home with a parent present seems like a safe night. But sadly, things are not always what they seem.