Feds’ Sweeping Southern California Bath Salts Bust Snares Seven Orange Countians

Seven Orange Countians are among those caught up in a federal government crackdown on synthetic drugs known as “spice” and “bath salts,” officials recently revealed.

Accused Bath Salts Drug Dealer From Newport Coast Keeps Striking Out

The locals were among two of three organizations charged in Los Angeles federal court with allegedly making and distributing thousands of kilograms of synthetic cannabinoids, which are designed to mimic the effects of THC and are sold under brand names such as “Sexy Monkey,” “Crazy Monkey,” “Scooby Snax,” “Bizarro” and “Mad Hatter,” according to the U.S. Attorney’s office.

“These are extremely dangerous drugs, despite being falsely marketed to youth as being a ‘safe’ alternative and having innocent names like spice and K2,” said Eileen M. Decker, the U.S. Attorney in Los Angeles. “The often unknown and constantly changing chemicals in these drugs can have unpredictable and devastating effects on users.”

Ahmad Abu Farie, 54, his 25-year-old son Mohammad Abu Farie, both of Huntington Beach, and a second son, Ehab Abu Farie, 24, of Chandler, Arizona, were among seven people charged with being part of a company in downtown LA’s Skid Row district that sold the compounds that are smoked or swallowed.

A separate Orange County business involved in the same, according to the feds, included Adnan Bahhur, 55, and his sons Islam Bahhur, 29, and Hakeem Bahhur, 24, all of Anaheim, Adnan Bahhur’s 44-year-old daughter Maesa Bahhur of Greenville, South Carolina, Anaheim’s Oun Alrzouq, 49, and Mohamad Hamade, 31, of Irvine.

A third case focuses on two former Monterey Park residents who allegedly had ties to the other two organizations. Most defendants are charged with conspiracy to manufacture, possess with intent to distribute, and distribute controlled substance analogues, a charge that carries a sentence of up to 20 years in federal prison, according to prosecutors.

Could be the makings of the longest family reunions EVER!

State raids 3 shops in ‘bath salts’ crackdown

bath salt raid

At Bubby’s Drive Thru in Byesville, Ohio, you could get a six-pack to go and some “bath salts” that pack a wallop like “cocaine on steroids.”

Similar products were available at Quality Food Market in New Carlisle, west of Springfield, and Party Time Carryout in Cambridge.

No more. Officials from Attorney General Mike DeWine’s office and a dozen law-enforcement agencies raided all three businesses yesterday as part of a crackdown on the sale of dangerous synthetic drugs, commonly known as bath salts, “spice” or “herbal incense.” Two arrests were made.

More raids and arrests across the state are in the pipeline, DeWine said in an interview.

“We now are armed with the new law. We have what we need. We’re working with local law enforcement, and we’re going to continue doing this if they know places that are selling this junk,” DeWine said.

“They market it to kids. The packaging often involves cartoonish figures,” he said. “If it doesn’t kill you, it’s going to really mess you up.”

Not only is DeWine going after owners and clerks who sell the synthetic drugs, his office also is seeking to shut down the businesses for up to a year by declaring them public nuisances and filing charges against sellers under the state consumer practices laws with fines up to $25,000 per incident.

Warrants were served in Clark, Montgomery and Guernsey counties following “investigations that uncovered synthetic cannabinoids, also known as synthetic marijuana or herbal incense,” being sold in three Ohio stores, DeWine’s office said. The owner of the store in New Carlisle was charged with three felony counts of trafficking in a controlled substance, DeWine’s office said.

The drugs involved are dangerous and deceptive. While they masquerade as bath salts and herbal incense — or in some cases products such Crystaal Bubbly Hookah Cleaner and White Pony Stain Remover — they are powerful, complex chemical blends. Often sold in smoke shops and corner markets, they gained popularity as alternatives to street drugs. They have been blamed for triggering psychotic episodes and deaths among users. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has also been raiding makers and sellers of the substances.

Dr. Dennis Mann, an emergency room physician at Dayton’s Miami Valley Hospital, said the drugs are like “cocaine on steroids. … Essentially, they overload your brain.”

The results are paranoia, agitated delirium, hallucinations and sometimes violence, Mann said.

Law enforcement and medical personnel offer horror stories of people’s bizarre behavior on bath salts. A Reynoldsburg man who imagined that raccoons stole his cellphone and were trying to set his house on fire chopped up his deck looking for the critters. An emergency room patient drank his own urine. Another man high on bath salts bit chunks out of his dog’s flesh.

DeWine sent retailers statewide a letter last November warning them about state law against selling synthetic drugs.

“We gave business owners fair warning that if we found synthetic drugs in their stores that there would be consequences, and now we are following through with that promise,” DeWine said.

The General Assembly has approved two laws making synthetic drugs illegal, most recently House Bill 334, which took effect in December.

Daytona Beach ready to outlaw synthetic pot

Daytona Beach is poised to become the first Volusia County municipality to crack down on synthetic marijuana and stimulants masquerading as potpourri, bath salts, incense and even treats for kids.

At their meeting Wednesday night, city commissioners will take a final vote on a measure that would make it illegal for anyone in Daytona Beach to sell, distribute or display the synthetic drugs that are usually labeled as bath salts or herbal incense.

With state and federal laws not yet making some of the substances in the products illegal, the measure would make it a code violation to have the synthetic drug cocktails in Daytona Beach businesses and to try to sell them in the city.

Supporters of the crackdown hope the future brings new measures that will make it a crime punishable by more than a maximum $500 fine to peddle the products that can mimic the highs of pot, methamphetamine and cocaine.

“It’s a good first step,” said Mayor Glenn Ritchey. “I’d like to see more teeth in it.”

Ritchey said the city and entire state need to stay a step ahead of synthetic drugs, with synthetic heroin already in other countries and probably headed to the United States.

“I think it’s only the beginning with bath salts and we need to be very cognizant in the future how we’ll address this,” Ritchey said. “This is really only the tip of the iceberg. (Drug dealers) will look for loopholes, so we need to look for ways to close all the loopholes.”

Holly Hill and Daytona Beach Shores are slated to take final votes next week on similar measures banning synthetic drugs not approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Ormond Beach will take an initial vote Wednesday on a synthetic drug measure, and other local cities including Port Orange, New Smyrna Beach and Edgewater are moving toward votes, too, said Mary Swiderski, executive director of the Volusia Council of Governments.

DeLand also is looking into the issue, Swiderski said. In Flagler County, Palm Coast and Bunnell have already outlawed synthetic drugs.

VCOG has been pushing area cities to ban the synthetic drugs until VCOG and other organizations can lobby the Legislature next year to pass an aggressive, comprehensive law that would wage war on unregulated synthetic drugs in Florida. The state has already declared 42 substances illegal, but drug dealers can tweak their compounds and add substances that haven’t been declared illegal yet, Swiderski said.

Users of the drugs are ingesting things such as nail polish remover, said Swiderski, who’s particularly passionate about the issue because both of her adult children have battled addictions.

“We could end up with a lost generation,” she said.

Daytona Beach’s measure contains language that attempts to be more sweeping to get ahead of illicit drug manufacturers, said City Attorney Marie Hartman.

Daytona Beach’s ordinance focuses on bath salts and herbal incense. If commissioners adopt the ordinance, the city won’t be going after drugs and substances approved by the FDA and available with a valid prescription.

Daytona Beach’s code enforcement officers also won’t be hunting for bath salts that don’t contain synthetic chemical stimulants, according to city records.

City officials will be looking for ingredients and packaging that indicates or suggests that the substances mimic the effects of marijuana or stimulants such as cocaine and amphetamines.

The bath salts can be sold as crystals, powder, liquid, tablets or capsules. Herbal incense can be sold in leaves, powder or granular form.

A person or business cited for a code violation involving one of the substances could face a civil penalty of $250 on an initial violation. If they contest the citation, they could wind up with penalties of up to $500 for each violation.

City Commissioner Edith Shelley, who urged fellow commissioners to consider a synthetic drug ordinance, said she’s particularly appalled by the products being sold in colorful packets with pictures of cartoon characters such as Scooby-Doo.

The products are often sold in convenience stores and tobacco shops, Shelley and other local officials said, giving kids and young adults easy access. And many of the substances aren’t caught in drug tests, Swiderski and others said.

Synthetic drugs have picked up in popularity over the past year, but Ritchey said “it’s not exploding in our area. It’s sort of stabilized.”

Shelley said the danger of the drugs became even more apparent to her when she met a local man who told her his teenage son nearly died after ingesting what the father believes was synthetic cocaine.

“The man walked in and the son was unconscious,” said Shelley, who noted the child was about 13 or 14. “When you meet someone who goes through something like that you realize we need to do everything we can to try to prevent this.”

West Virginia target of federal ‘bath salts’ prosecution agrees to plead guilty

The owner of two strip-mall head shops in northern West Virginia has agreed to plead guilty on Nov. 26 to distributing “bath salts” — synthetic hallucinogens — to hundreds of customers who lined up outside his stores.

Jeff Paglia, 48, owner of Hot Stuff and Cool Things stores in Clarksburg and Buckhannon, is the main player in one of the largest bath salts cases in the country. According to the U.S. attorney’s office in Wheeling, he and a co-conspirator, John Skruck, 56, were largely responsible for the high number of medical incidents in West Virginia related to the use of bath salts, which can induce psychosis and paranoia.

President Obama signed a law this summer making the chemicals in bath salts illegal, making permanent an emergency ban imposed by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration in 2011.

DEA imposed the ban after tracking a spike in emergency-room visits and bizarre behavior by bath salts users across the U.S.

West Virginia had the most such incidents in the country, and Harrison County — where Mr. Paglia’s Clarksburg store is located — recorded the most in the state.

Police and federal agents watched in the mornings as dozens of customers lined up outside the store, waiting for it to open, and then left with bath salt packages wrapped in foil.

Mr. Paglia’s plea comes after two of his employees entered pleas on Monday.

In addition to selling bath salts, Mr. Paglia is accused with maintaining a storage building in Stonewood, W.Va., for the purpose of drug distribution as well as structuring monetary transactions to avoid IRS reporting requirements.

Banks are required to report any transactions above $10,000, so money-launderers often deposit or withdraw cash in amounts just under that figure. A pattern of such transactions, however, triggers a suspicious activity report to law enforcement.

Agents with the criminal investigation division of the IRS said Mr. Paglia and his corporation, Jemrose Inc., structured deposits totaling $747,430 across six months in 2011.

In addition to the criminal prosecution, the U.S. attorney’s office has moved to forfeit 11 properties and various vehicles as well as $750,000 in cash.

Mr. Skruck, a Texas strip-club owner identified as Mr. Paglia’s partner in the drug business, is awaiting trial.

“These are absolutely the worst drugs (Youtube) I’ve ever seen,” is how one drug investigator described “Bath Salts,” the street name for synthetic drugs that alter the brain—sometimes permanently.

Bath Salts (WebMD) are sold legally under the guise of being added to bath water. The package is labeled “not for human consumption.” But their true use is sinister. When ingested, Bath Salts mimic other illegal drugs, such as cocaine, LSD and methamphetamine, with horrible effects that lead to paranoid behaviors, violence, seizures and too often a trip to the hospital, said Eric Van Fossen, coordinator with the Tri-Rivers Drug Task Force.

Van Fossen will be a speaker at a “synthetic drug” awareness meeting on Sunday, October 21, at 7 p.m. at Zoar Baptist Church in Deltaville. All area middle and high school youth are encouraged to attend.

A public awareness meeting will be held at 7 p.m., Sunday, October 21, at Zoar Church in Deltaville.
The paradox of Bath Salts is obvious, said a drug investigator with 16 years experience. “Who would pay more than $35 for a package with a teaspoon of crystals to put in their bath water?”

He said there are more than 80 different synthetic drugs with enticing names such as Vanilla Sky, Ivory Wave, Bliss, and Zoom, to name a few.

“Bath Salts are a public health crisis,” said State Delegate Keith Hodges of Urbanna, a pharmacist who serves on the General Assembly’s substance abuse council.

The long-term effects of using unknown toxic chemicals are unknown, Del. Hodges said. However, horror stories are surfacing that seem more like fiction, but are indeed fact.

The Middlesex County Sheriff’s Office responded to more than 20 Bath Salts-related emergencies in two months this spring.

In April 2012, a Middlesex County man on Bath Salts destroyed his own home, and the following week he destroyed the inside of his neighbor’s home.

In May 2012, a Middlesex County teenager was transported to the hospital for elevated heart rate five times in 36 hours after using “Amped.”

In April, a Gloucester County woman saw aliens, FBI agents in trees, and snakes after using “Amped.” She ended up in intensive care.

At this Sunday’s meeting, professionals will be on hand to answer health questions about these highly-addictive drugs.

Other speakers include Middlesex Sheriff’s Office investigators Captain M.E. Sampson and C.B. Sibley. Call Captain Sampson at 758-1335 for more information.

A one-way trip, with no return
At this Sunday’s synthetic drug awareness meeting in Deltaville, parents whose deceased son used Bath Salts will share their tragic story. Their son started using Bath Salts when he was 17. In August his parents had to make the decision to terminate his life-support equipment. Their only son was dead at 20.
Even though the young man quit doing drugs and alcohol and developed a new relationship with God, he still had “flashbacks” of being on Bath Salts, said his father.

He had been clean for 2 years but still hallucinated that people were standing in the road as he drove. His parents spent thousands of dollars trying to correct the damage that had been done to his brain by Bath Salts.

The four-time All-State wrestler had fits of intense anger for no reason at all, and would call his parents from college in the middle of the night and rant for hours seeking relief.

In the end, nothing could reverse the damage done by Bath Salts. Nothing.
“A dead spot in his brain”
The effects of synthetic drugs on the brain can be lethal. No one knows this more than Judy and Kevin Mooers of Heathsville in Northumberland County, whose 20-year-old son died in August.
Matt Mooers started doing Bath Salts when he was 17 years old, after a stranger approached him at a convenience store telling him that for a few dollars he could get high all night. “After he did it once he didn’t want to live a normal life,” Judy Mooers told the audience at the synthetic drug awareness meeting. Matt would later tell his parents, “If only I had said ‘no.’ ”

These “super addictive” drugs cause circulation problems, said Mrs. Mooers. When her son, a 4-time All-State wrestler, worked out, his knee caps would turn very red. He also had severe migraine headaches.

After attending a wedding in Seattle and suffering drug withdrawals on the return trip, Matt wandered off from his parents during a gas stop in Fredericksburg. He met a man who prayed with him. That was the beginning of his comeback, said Mrs. Mooers.

Matt got clean of drugs for high school wrestling season, “but that yearning was still inside him,” she said.

As a freshman at James Madison University, Matt started drinking a lot. By the second semester he was drunk almost all the time. He landed in jail for possession of alcohol and public intoxication. Although he had no shirt, one shoe and a black eye, he had no memory of how or what had happened.

A short time later, Matt was on his way to a Bible study, but may have had the wrong date. However, he heard gospel music being sung and went in the church. At the end of the service, Matt professed that he was an addict and alcoholic. Those in the church rushed to hug him. “He was a different person after that,” said Mrs. Mooers.

Matt remained sober until his last night partying, three days before he died.

He became active in Alcoholics Anonymous, and Narcotics Anonymous meetings, went on a mission trip to the New York City Bowery where he tried to help addicts who had given up.

“A rage”
About two weeks later, Matt called his parents. “I’m in a rage . . . and there is no reason for it.” Eventually, doctors diagnosed Matt. “He had a dead spot in his brain coming from the synthetic drugs he had done years earlier,” said Mrs. Mooers.
Although he had been clean for two years, Matt had drug flashbacks and was hallucinating that people were looking in his windows, and people were standing in the road when he was driving.

Matt’s parents are still trying to figure out what happened the night of August 14, 2012. From Matt’s text messages to a friend, his parents learned, “I need one night of fun . . . I need a break, don’t worry.”

Mrs. Mooers added, “In the mind of every addict is a demon saying, ‘You’ve been good. You deserve some fun.’ ”

His friend found him unconscious around noon on the following day. His heart had stopped. The rescue squad worked 20 minutes to get his heart started.

There was little brain activity. He was placed on a respirator and his parents were called. “We knew it was unlikely he would recover,” said Mrs. Mooers.

His friends filled the waiting room in Harrisonburg Hospital. Some revealed how Matt had helped them break free of drugs, and how he had apologized for influencing them to do drugs.

His parents honored Matt’s wish to donate his organs and made the decision to terminate life support.

The police investigation into Matt Mooers’ death continues, said his father Kevin. Those who partied with Matt on his final night could face murder charges, and “they have retained lawyers,” he added.

The chemicals in some Bath Salts are unknown and those who make and sell them don’t always know the full extent of their effect, said Mr. Mooers. “They don’t know what the drugs will do,” he said. “They only find out when they sell them.”

By the time Matt Mooers learned what their effects were—it was too late.

Bath Salts Label Used to Disguise an Increasingly Popular Drug

Last week a man reportedly interrupted a Tennessee church service, clutching a hammer and saying he was high on bath salts. Although he did not hurt anyone, the incident is reminiscent of the grisly attack in Miami earlier this year when a man falsely rumored to be high on bath salts bit and tore the flesh off of another man’s face. Together, these incidents highlight the confusion that surrounds a new category of mood- and behavior-altering synthetic drugs that, while advertised as bath salts, contain no legitimate home-spa therapy ingredients and are bought by individuals who intend to use them to get high.
During a presentation at the American Osteopathic Association’s (AOA) OMED 2012, the Osteopathic Medical Conference & Exposition in San Diego, Marla Kushner, DO, who treats teens dealing with addiction in her private medical practice in Chicago, asserts that there are indications bath salt drug use is increasing. Citing data from the American Association of Poison Control Centers, Dr. Kushner notes that calls to poison control centers in the United States regarding exposure to bath salt drugs have drastically increased over the past three years with zero calls in 2009, 304 calls in 2010 and 6,138 calls in 2011.
While only time will tell if these types of calls will continue to increase, Dr. Kushner, a board-certified osteopathic family physician and addiction medicine specialist, points out that changes in federal drug laws have helped to make selling bath salt drugs illegal.
In July 2012, key ingredients in bath salt drugs, including methylene-dioxypyrovalerone, mephedrone and methylone, were officially categorized as schedule I substances, meaning they are now considered to have no legitimate medical purpose and require special licensing to be purchased or distributed. While many physicians like Dr. Kushner are hopeful this change will lead to fewer cases of bath salt drug use and addiction, Dr. Kushner cautions that many sellers are still successfully peddling the drugs over the Internet.
“Though the name would otherwise suggest, bath salt drug users typically inhale or snort the products,” says Dr. Kushner. “Users are usually looking for a sense of euphoria or use the drugs as a substitute for other stimulants, looking for a cocaine-like high.”
The reasons users give for taking bath salt drugs are numerous, adds Dr. Kushner. They also include sexual arousal, a heightened sense of music appreciation and hallucinations. However, she warns, these drugs are highly addictive and the adverse reactions can be very dangerous. They include:
suicidal thoughts;
dry mouth;
insomnia; and
Treatments for bath salt drug addicts are dependent on each patient’s case but a treatment regimen, notes Dr. Kushner, may include a combination of the following:
therapy with an addiction psychiatrist;
completing a drug rehabilitation program;
practicing sober living; and
having a family support network.
While many of the treatments are similar to those used to treat patients with other addictions, Dr. Kushner emphasizes that the stories told by recovering bath salt drug users are cautionary tales of incomparable struggles.


We’ve posted before about how our changing collective awareness of homosexuality in the U.S. over the last several decades often leads us to see implicit(or even explicit) gay themes in vintage ads and photos that likely wouldn’t have carried those connotations at the time. My colleague Gregory R. sent in a set of ads from the 1940s for Cannon Towels that perfectly illustrate this. The ads, part of their True Towel Tales campaign, focus on the experiences of U.S. soldiers fighting in various parts of the world during World War II. They seem intensely homoerotic by today’s standards:

LAPPL joins the spray of ‘bath salts’ warnings

The Los Angeles Police Protection League is in a lather over the growing use of so-called “bath salts” — the new synthetic street drug — and has joined a wash of warnings in the wake of audio released this week allegedly involving synthetic drugs and the bank executive who claims he was beaten by the LAPD.

The LAPPL’s post follows an L.A. Times story earlier in the week noting nationwide poison control centers statistics regarding calls about synthetic drugs.

A White House-issued “Synthetic Drug” fact sheet cites the number of calls related to bath salt exposure “increased by more than 20 times in 2011 alone, up from 304 in 2010 to 6,138,” according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers.

A federal ban on synthetic drug ingredients MDPV (methylenedioxypyrovalerone) and mephedrone was signed by President Obama in July.

The warning below was issued Tuesday by the L.A. County Department of Public Health:

Study Shows Exactly Why ‘Bath Salts’ Are So Dangerous

Designer street drugs called bath salts are highly addictive and cause hyperactivity, rapid heart rate, and high blood pressure, according to an illuminating study on two substances published earlier this week.

Bath salts represent an increasingly problematic segment of the nation’s battle with substance use and dependence. The number of calls to the American Association of Poison Control Centers from people sickened by bath salts skyrocketed from 303 in 2010 to 6,072 last year. The new study, performed on animals, provides a scientific look at how the chemicals impact the brain. The research is important for public health and substance-abuse professionals trying to prevent more people from experimenting with the drugs and helping those who become addicted.

“The fundamental problem with the whole bath salts phenomenon is we don’t know anything about the pharmacological effects and possible toxic effects of these substances,” Dr. Michael Baumann, the lead author of the study and a staff scientist at the National Institute on Drug Abuse, told TakePart. “Where do they interact in the brain and in the periphery? From a public health perspective, we really need to know what those risks might be.”

Bath salts represent a class of designer drugs that began showing up on U.S. streets about three years ago. Sold as a synthetic powder, the drugs are available online and in drug paraphernalia stores. Besides the term bath salts, the drugs are known by names such as “Ivory Wave,” “Purple Wave,” “Red Dove,” “Blue Silk,” “Zoom,” “Bloom,” “Cloud Nine,” “Ocean Snow,” “Lunar Wave,” “Vanilla Sky,” “White Lightning,” “Scarface,” and “Hurricane Charlie,” according to NIDA. The drugs are inhaled, swallowed, injected, or snorted.

Chemically, bath salts resemble naturally occurring substances called cathinones, which have a chemical structure similar to amphetamines, although the effects of the synthetic substances on the brain is far different from what nature intended with cathinones.

In July, President Obama signed a law banning known versions of the drugs, including those that contain several popular active ingredients known as methylone, mephedrone and methylenedioxypyrovalerone, or MDPV. But street chemists continue to tweak the concoctions to produce new versions that escape Drug Enforcement Agency classification.

“We have a whole new wave of second-generation or replacement cathinones,” Baumann says. “MDPV, mephedrone and methylone are being replaced. [Manufacturers] change the structure of the molecules ever so slightly. So this is a formidable problem.”

The new study, published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology, explains why users should fear the effects of bath salts. Like the drug MDMA—or Ecstasy—the active compounds in bath salts examined in the study attach to chemical transporters on the surface of some neurons. This leads to increases in the brain chemicals serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine, and prolongs the effects of dopamine and norepinephrine in a part of the brain called the nucleus accumbens.

Mom Campaigns Against Drug Linked to Son’s Death

Adam R. Hernandez, 28, had been in the U.S. Navy for eight years and planned on making a career out it.
He was fearless and full of life, eager to go skydiving, scuba diving, or kayak shark fishing in Hawaii where he was stationed.
But on June 20, Hernandez took his life, likely the result of his smoking Spice, a product that is sold as incense but is becoming known nationally as a potentially dangerous drug that has some of the same effects as synthetic marijuana.
Spice paraphernalia was found in Hernandez’s home in Hawaii. A groundskeeper found his body on a soccer field on base.
In spite of her pain over the loss of her oldest son, El Paso educator Ruth M. Rivas feels compelled to share his story and “a put a face” to her message about this dangerous product.

She has launched a website and campaign, “Spice is Not Nice,” in memory of her son.
“Adam loved to live. I know Adam wouldn’t have done this on his own. He was always reading books and giving advice to people. He always wanted to help people. This is my way of making sure he is still helping other people,” said Rivas, with tears in her eyes. “I’m making sure that Adam didn’t die in vain.”
Diana Apodaca, public information officer with the Drug Enforcement Administration, is grateful that Rivas is willing to share her son’s story. Apodaca and other DEA agents are incorporating his story into their presentations for Red Ribbon Week this week.
“We’re grateful that
she’s willing to bring a human aspect to it,” she said. “We tell kids ‘drugs are bad’ and they know the agents are going to say that. But (through Adam’s story) we have evidence. What she is doing is very brave and emotionally very hard. But she’s willing to do this because of the love of her son … devoting her life to telling others. She’s a wonderful lady we have met through some unfortunate circumstances.”
Rivas, a librarian at Robert R. Rojas Elementary, said the last time she talked
to her son was on the phone a few weeks after Mother’s Day.
“He was talking about wanting to re- enlist in the Navy and trying to be an officer,” she said. “And he wanted to do it on a significant day like the Fourth of July.”

Hernandez, a machinist’s mate first class, had been trained at the Naval Nuclear Training Command in Goose Creek, S.C., and Naval Nuclear Power Training Unit in Ballston, N.Y., and wanted to continue in that line of service.
His calls home were less frequent over the past year and he sometimes seemed angry or agitated on the phone. But Rivas never suspected he was doing any kind of drug, much less that he was addicted to something like Spice.
“I know there’s drug testing in the military,”
she said. “And I thought if he had been doing something, I would have heard about it.”
The mother of three had only heard of Spice once before her son’s death.
Spice is the slang name for a mix of herbs laced with chemicals and marketed under different names. It is sometimes marketed as potpourri or incense and is labeled, “not for human consumption.”
“You can find it under different names and with pictures of cartoons,” Rivas said. “One of them is Scooby Doo. Can you believe it? They are trying to pull in the kids.”
Since her son’s death, Rivas has done a lot of research, discovering that Spice is a serious issue for military branches. There are several videos about the dangers of Spice by the Navy on YouTube.
On the Army’s official website, a 2010 article quotes an Army official saying that Spice has become a widespread problem throughout the service. It is often smoked by soldiers because it can’t be detected in urine tests, can be less expensive than traditional marijuana and is easy to purchase.
The article states that some commanders have made it off limits for their soldiers to purchase or use on or off duty.
Rivas has contacted officials with Aliviane, the DEA and the Naval Academy about her willingness to speak on the dangers of the drug.
“This is not just for kids,” she said. “It’s for parents and the military and for everybody. That’s why I want everybody to know. I want to make people aware, to not even try it.”
Apodaca said Spice is a nationwide problem.
“It’s an issue because it’s being marketed as if they’re legal, so it’s OK,” she said. “And it’s made people think because it’s made in a lab, it’s safer. But they’re not. It’s more dangerous than the drug they mimic.”
In July, DEA agents seized more than 6,800 packages of synthetic drugs and 31 containers of bath salts, as part of Operation Log Jam. The operation focused on illegal substances that are disguised as fertilizer, potpourri and incense.
In New Mexico, more than 56,000 packages of Spice and 9,000 containers of bath salts were confiscated.
According to the DEA, the drugs are not specifically prohibited in the Controlled Substance Act, but the Controlled Substance Analogue Enforcement Act of 1986 allows the drugs to be treated as illegal if chemical tests prove they are similar to banned controlled substances.
Spice doesn’t discriminate when it comes to age, Apodaca said.
“Unfortunately, it’s between the ages of 18 and 24 that are primarily abusing it,” Apodaca said. “But it is marketed toward our youth. Unfortunately, it’s a new problem that we are trying to get the word out about, especially to parents. When they see the packages at their home, they need to not overlook it. Education is key.”
The effects of this synthetic drug are dangerous. They can include vomiting, increased heart rate, temporary paralysis, seizures and even paranoid delusion, depression and hallucinations.
At its worst, it can lead to heart attacks or as in Hernandez’s case, lead to thoughts of suicide.
In the past few weeks, Rivas has made several presentations and said she often cries while talking about her son. She said this is her way of coping.
“It is hard,” she said. “I still cry and who knows how long … but I just can’t sit back and do nothing because to me that’s worse. I would rather talk about it and help other people.”
Leslie Hudson Sanchez, a parent who heard Rivas speak recently, was so touched by the presentation, she posted about Rivas and her website on her Facebook page.
“I shed a tear or two for her loss of her son who never did drugs and ended up using and died. ….This is for all the parents out there that have kids and parents who want to know what new drugs are out there that you don’t want your kids to use. Educate yourself to help your child and know what they talk about,” Sanchez wrote.
Sanchez added, “Her story is so sad and I don’t know how she had the strength to stand in front of us all and tell us her story … she has so much strength and I look up to her for speaking up for her son and sharing her experience and spreading the word of this drug and what can happen to even the smartest kids that have both their parents.”
Rivas has returned to her job but she says she wishes she could partner with an organization or business that would allow her to devote her time completely to sharing Adam’s story.
“My passion has always been education,” she said. “And I am still an educator. But my message is different now.”