While we as parents work hard to keep our kids away from illegal drugs (and prescription ones that can hurt them, too), what we might have less of a handle on are the so-called "legal" or "natural" drugs that masquerade as something else — in this case, incense or potpourri.
Nineteen-year-old Connor "CJ" Eckhardt passed away in late July after smoking what's called "spice," a synthetic form of marijuana that can be highly lethal. And not only is there "no punishment for possessing spice" in California, where Connor is from, according to a Newport Beach police officer who spoke to the Daily Pilot, it can also be found in familiar places like gas stations, packaged under various product names. (It is, however, illegal to sell.)
The other scary thing? Spice is also untraceable.
Because the drug contains a variety of components whose concentrations can be changed, there is no standard test for it, according to the Orange County, Calif., news outlet.
But the effects are deadly.
"Also called 'K2,' spice can overwhelm brain circuitry, possibly leading to psychosis, kidney injury, high body temperature, heart attack or, as in Connor's case, death," the Pilot reports.
It's unclear whether Connor stopped breathing or his heart stopped after taking spice, but his brain began to swell and he fell into a coma. He had no other drugs in his system — and only a packet of spice in his pocket to alert doctors at Hoag Hospital in Newport Beach, where he passed away.
Veronica and Devin Eckhardt, Connor's adoptive parents, told the Daily Pilot that Connor had a "propensity toward addiction," which grew stronger once he turned 18 and went in search of his birth mother, who reportedly had not remained sober during her pregnancy with Connor.
The Eckhardts, who also have two other adopted children, donated Connor's organs and set up a Facebook page to commemorate Connor and to spotlight the dangers of spice.
"We can't let CJ's death repeat itself," Connor's friend Emily Quezada, who met him at a drug recovery program, said at his memorial service. "We can't let CJ die in vain."