Not even the fear of death can make Jake England stop using synthetic marijuana.
England's mother, Lee Brandt of Wilber, Neb., is at her wit's end. Her 22-year-old son has been in and out of rehab, in jail and currently is under a doctor's care. Even so, he hasn't completely kicked synthetic marijuana — often called “K2” — even though he knows an overdose of the legal drug killed a Greenwood teenager in November.
“I don't know what it's going to take,” a tearful Brandt said Monday. “It's killing our family.”
Brandt brought her son to a seminar on drug and alcohol use Monday at Ashland-Greenwood High School in Ashland. She hoped it would be a wake-up call.
“We cry every day. We know he's going to die...it's just a question of when.”
Helping present the seminar was Steve Tucker of Greenwood, whose son, Billy, 18, died of the K2 overdose in November. He took a nap after a night of partying and never woke up.
“This stuff is worse than cocaine,” Tucker said. “We've got to get parents involved, so that's what we're doing today.”
Like its herbal counterpart, synthetic marijuana — or K2, as it sometimes is called — promises a high.
But it also can cause seizures, high blood pressure and, in cases like Tucker's, death. Versions of K2 have been outlawed, but new formulas are developed and can be sold legally at gas stations and head shops.
“If a parent like me didn't know this stuff existed, a lot of parents don't know,” said Kali Smith of Bellevue. Her son, Tyler, killed himself in September 2012. He had K2 in his pocket and his car.
"You're playing Russian roulette every time you use it,” Kali Smith said.
Said Tucker, “One puff took my son's life.”
The seminar, which included speakers like Smith and Tucker, also focused on teen use of illegal drugs and alcohol.
“We're seeing a lot of parents looking for good information about how to talk to their kids about alcohol,” said Sarah Draper, a program specialist for Mothers Against Drunk Driving. “They want to have the conversation but aren't sure how to bring it up.”
Representatives from the National Safety Council, Saunders County Sheriff's Office and other anti-drug and alcohol groups also attended.
James Tracy was Billy Tucker's friend. He found the teen's body.
“He had been dead for a while,” said Tracy, 18. “Before that, he seemed normal. He was himself.”
Jake England and Steve Tucker later talked privately about what happened to Billy.
England's mother and younger sister prayed it would make a difference.
England said it hit home.
“It made me feel lousy,” he said. “It made me feel guilty.”