Dire Reactions To Synthetic LSD

Montgomery Co. teen’s death pushes alarm button about synthetic drugs

lsdWhen 16-year-old Grant Hobson left his family’s Lake Conroe home to spend the night with a friend in The Woodlands earlier this month, nothing appeared out of the ordinary. Both students were exceptional high school debaters and planned to work on preparing Grant for his coming debate at a prestigious Harvard University tournament.

But what Grant’s parents didn’t know was that a “texting party” also was on tap that evening. Text messages would link teens at several homes who planned to ingest synthetic LSD – known on the street as the N-Bomb – at the exact same moment. Afterward, the teens planned to text each other again to compare their psychedelic experiences.

That night, things went terribly wrong. Grant, a Montgomery High School honors student with an affable grin and a mop of dark hair who was already being courted by dozens of colleges, died after placing a chemical-soaked stamp on his tongue, family members said. His body completely shut down, and within a short time he was declared brain-dead at an area hospital.

Two weeks later, two female students were rushed to the hospital from Montgomery High after experimenting with the same synthetic drug. The incidents came five months after five young adults from south Montgomery County suffered reactions after consuming it one weekend. One Oak Ridge High School student was in a coma for nine days, and others exhibited bizarre behavior such as jumping nude into a subdivision fountain or climbing nude onto a roof in The Woodlands.

All this activity has pushed an alarm button in the county, leading to a meeting attended by hundreds of parents at Montgomery ISD and the launch of a countywide investigation into the emerging drug culture.

In the last nine days, a dozen teenagers have been arrested on various drug-related charges, from marijuana possession to tampering with evidence. They ranged from three teens age 17 or older who can be prosecuted as adults to an eighth-grader alleged to have been trying to distribute synthetic LSD – a variation of the potent, mood-changing drug – on his campus.

“There’s a big storm brewing. The net is closing in on a bunch of people who’ve been involved in this,” said Grant’s father, Tyler.

He and his wife, Traci, a fifth-grade teacher, are working with law enforcement to identify the suppliers of the potentially lethal drug and to reach out to lawmakers who want to raise the state penalty for distributing these once-unregulated substances from a misdemeanor to a felony.

Synthetic LSD is one of several hundred designer drugs that have emerged in the past six years, said Lawrence Payne, a spokesman for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency. It started with fake pot – known as “K-2” or “Spice,” which was packaged as everything from potpourri to watch cleaner – followed by stimulants marketed as bath salts, Payne said.

Now attention is being focused on 251-NBOMe, known as the N-Bomb. It mimics the LSD that was made popular by the psychologist and media icon Timothy Leary in the ’60s and ’70s, but this one is four times more potent and deadly, authorities said.

The drug is made from a white powder that is produced by rogue chemists, mostly from China, and then sold over the Internet. The buyer turns this powder into a liquid that is applied to blotter paper the size of a postage stamp and may feature pictures of cartoon characters like SpongeBob SquarePants. To the untrained eye, the odorless, tasteless stamps could appear to be children’s stickers, authorities said.

“They are mixing this concoction up in somebody’s garage. There are no standards or safeguards for consistent processing. So each dose could contain drastically differing dosages,” said the DEA’s Payne. “When we test it, we find other drugs mixed into it. Users are playing Russian roulette when they take it.”

In one 17-month period ending in August 2013, the DEA linked the drug to the deaths of at least 19 young adults, ages 15 to 29. Hundreds of calls also have poured in to poison control centers across the country since the drug came on the scene around 2010.

The designer drug problem is not isolated in the Houston area to Montgomery County, authorities add.

In June 2012, 21-year-old Kevin Schoolmeyer of Friendswood was driving home after ingesting N-Bomb at a party when he suddenly started flailing his arms. He punched the passenger seated beside him and ripped his console apart and soon afterward was dead, an autopsy report said.

A 15-year-old Houston girl, whose name was not released, experimented with this same drug a month later. She, too, started thrashing her arms and legs around and was dead half an hour later.

This month, a regional drug task force had undercover agents focus attention on illicit synthetic substances being sold in Fort Bend County. Two men were arrested and charged this week with selling synthetic marijuana after 194 grams were seized.

Meanwhile, prosecutor Phil Grant said “thousands of hits” of synthetic LSD are flowing into Montgomery County every week.

“We are making significant progress in tracking down who is bringing it here, which appears to be coming from Houston,” he said.

Jason Traver, Grant’s uncle, gave an unusual eulogy at the teen’s funeral in which he asked for those who knew who was bringing the drug into the community to come forward.

“This deadly drug game ends today. The drug text chats are over. Your secret lives hiding in the shadows away from your parents and educators are over,” he told the gathering.

Traver asked that anyone with information tell “everything you know about this epidemic invading our backyards.”

Since then, Tyler Hobson said, many who knew his son have been cooperating with authorities.

Yet Hobson and his wife are still reeling.

“You have a super-smart son, doing fantastic in school, reads 300 pages a day and wants to be a lawyer. Tons of colleges are interested in him and he’s only a sophomore,” his father said. “What makes him succumb to the pressure to experiment with a designer drug? It’s crazy.”

In a strained voice, Traci Hobson described her son as so much more than one wrong choice: “He was loving and affectionate. He’d put his arms around us, kiss us on the head, massage our shoulders.”

But the couple had noticed their shy, quiet boy lately growing more private. His mother attributed it to adolescence.

“They are the best parents I’ve ever seen, super-involved,” said Traver. “So when their son seemed a little off, they checked his phone. One day his father even forced him to do a urine drug test. But nothing showed up,” as most tests don’t target the deadly new drug.

By Cindy Horswell


March 3, 2015

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