SUNRISE (CBS4) – A Sunrise man survived what he and his doctors are calling a near death experience from a dangerous new drug called synthetic marijuana.
Sean Beard’s doctor says the 26-year-old suffered kidney failure after smoking Spice — also known as synthetic marijuana — and was in the intensive care unit at Broward Health Medical Center for a week, fighting to survive.
Beard and his mother are using the experience as an opportunity to warn others about the drug.
“It’s definitely something that shouldn’t be on the market,” Beard told CBS 4’s Carey Codd.
Beard looks beat up — he has bloodshot eyes and bruises under his eyes. His can barely speak above a whisper. But he says one look at him should convince people to stay far away from synthetic marijuana.
“Here I am now,” Beard said from his hospital bed. “Look at me. If you want to look like me, go for it. Go to the store, go buy this (stuff).”
Beard, who was able to return home on Wednesday evening, says he bought the drug at a Sunrise gas station and admits he used it for months after battling a drug addiction. Beard says he thought it was fine to use the product since it was sold in stores.
After her son’s brush with death Gail Beard wants to warn other parents about this drug.
“It’s horrible,” she said. “I think it needs to be taken off the market completely never to be seen again.”
Gail Beard said after her son’s incident she purchased a packet of the product herself. She said she was surprised at the colorful, fun-looking packaging.
“It looks like it’s something for kids,” she said. “It’s like a bubble gum wrapper.”
State legislators, federal drug investigators and law enforcement officers agree with the Beard’s. There have been laws in Florida passed banning some of the substances in fake pot. However, experts like toxicologist Chip Walls say the manufacturers have been able to stay ahead of the authorities by slightly altering the ingredients to keep the drug legal.
“Trouble is they’re changing (the ingredients) as fast as the government is putting them on a controlled substance list,” Walls said in an earlier interview.
Poison control experts add that they’ve seen a drastic increase in the amount of people becoming sick on the drug both in Florida and nationwide.
Another way the product stays on store shelves, authorities say, is that the packages contain a warning on the package that it’s not for human consumption. But medical experts say young people are using it and in some cases are becoming psychotic, violently ill and suicidal.
“This is deadly,” said Doctor Parham Eftekhari, Beard’s kidney specialist. “Studies need to be done on this. I think this needs to be closely investigated because (Beard) is not the only patient in the hospital suffering some kind of damage.”
A couple of South Florida cities — including Sunrise — have banned the sale of fake pot. State legislators also toughened the laws on possessing the drug by banning many of the substances used to make it.
However, experts say they are keeping a close eye on the drug to see if new variations of the drug warrant additional bans.