TAFT, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) - A Taft mother is convinced her son's death is linked to the drug called "spice." The young man apparently hung himself, but the mother said she thinks that was caused by the effects of spice.
Barbara Fox-Connick said she got a call last Wednesday from one of her son's friends.
"I'm just sitting here looking at your son," the friend told her. "He hung himself."
Connick said it happened in a small house that her son shared with a sister.
Eladio Longoria, 19, was rushed to the hospital on July 3. The family said they made the painful decision to remove him from life support on July 5.
Connick believes Longoria started smoking spice about four months ago. Her son told her he did that to "get off weed," and because he could pass drug tests and get a job. She thinks for the last two or three months, he was smoking spice every day.
"Spice refers to a wide variety of herbal mixtures that produce experiences similar to marijuana (cannabis) and that are marketed as 'safe' legal alternatives to that drug," reads information from a National Institute on Drug Abuse website.
"Sold under many names, including K2, Fake Weed, Yucatan Fire, Skunk, Moon Rocks, and others -- and labeled 'not for human consumption' -- these products contain dried, shredded plant material and chemical additives that are responsible for their psychoactive (mind altering) effects," the NIDA information continues.
Law enforcement officers in the Taft area have been watching the effects of spice.
"It's a problem, people are abusing it," Kern County Sheriff's Sgt. Martin Downs told Eyewitness News. That officer said they see use mostly by young people, but also some adults.
Downs also said he thinks the availability of spice has gone down since the large raids by the federal Drug Enforcement Administration last week. Eyewitness News was there as a number of locations around Bakersfield were targeted by teams of officers. That action included serving a search warrant at a warehouse, which federal agents said they suspected of being a hub for distribution of the drug to smoke shops and cigarette stores in the area.
Longoria's family said they don't know where he would buy the spice.
Taft Police Chief Ed Whiting said his office has also been investigating spice for about a year. He thinks there may have been five or six shops in the Taft area that sold spice, he thinks that number is now down dramatically.
But, Taft police have seen serious impacts from spice.
"We've had (users) out on the highway walking like drunks," Whiting said. "We've had them yelling at people, they've started fights."
The worst thing is, spice is unpredictable, the chief said.
"Because it's unpredictable, we just don't know what will happen. We don't know where the next turn is."
Experts say makers will slightly change the chemicals in spice, trying to get around the federal and California laws banning it. Those experts also say the chemical changes make the drug more dangerous.
Connick said she spotted behavior in her son which she believes was caused by spice use. "He was hearing voices," she described. And, while the mother says her son may have also dealt with mental health issues, she still thinks spice caused his death.
"Him and his girlfriend just got engaged the week before this," Connick said. "So, that's why I don't understand the whole suicide thing."
The mother said her son also ended up in an urgent care facility with complaints of lung and chest pain, she thinks that was due to using spice.
Connick said her son was a great kid, who always told people he loved them.
"He loved life," she added. "And he was always wanting to help."
The family is waiting to hear more from the Sheriff's department, and results from an autopsy.
But, Connick wants the drug spice gone, and no longer available to hurt other young people. "I want if off the streets," she said.
The mother is convinced that's what took her son's life, and she will miss him. She will most miss hearing him say, "I love you."