EUGENE, Ore. - Once an athlete and a role model for his brothers and sisters, an 18-year-old Lane County boy has changed since coming into contact with something that is perfectly legal - and potentially dangerous.
"He shot his first elk last fall," his father told KVAL News. "We have a lot of fun going up to the lake swimming and doing stuff like that. That's not happening this summer.
This father, who spoke to KVAL News on condition of anonymity, feels like he lost is son.
"He doesn't want anything to do with us," he said.
The culprit? His father said his son is hooked on smoking a perfectly legal substance known as K2 or Spice that is sold legally as incense, carries 15 times the strength of marijuana, and has been linked to angry outbursts.
Spice is a synthetic form of cannabis sold on the Internet. Some smoke shop retailers sell the stuff as incense or even bath salts, but people looking for a legal high smoke it.
As part of a KVAL News investigation, a reporter purchased three grams of K2 for $60 at a Eugene store. The owner did not want to be interviewed, but employees told KVAL News they sell K2 as incense, not for people to consume. They were sold out of most varieties at the time.
When the father of the 18 year old went in to try and learn more about what his son was doing, however, he said he got a different story.
"I walk in and she tells me that this stuff will just knock your socks off," he told KVAL News. "And when she sells me this $5 sample of this stuff, it's with the assurance that when I use this stuff that I'll come and let her know what I thought about the high that I got smoking this."
'I would be real concerned about someone getting some Spice and driving'
Spice doesn't show up on a drug test.
Drug sniffing dogs can't detect it.
And most police departments have never even heard of it.
"I'm not aware of any specific cases," Sgt. John Umenhofer with Springfield Police Department said. "That doesn't mean that it may not be occuring."
You don't even have to be 18 to buy it.
But substance abuse expert Tom Favereau at the University of Oregon said Spice is dangerous, more than 15 times as powerful as marijuana.
"I would be real concerned about someone getting some Spice and driving," he said.
Among his concerns are the potentially life-threatening symptoms Spice can trigger: high blood pressure; rapid or irregular heart rate
seizures; and rage.
That's what the concerned father who talked to KVAL News saw in his son. His son is "physically just out of control," he said. "Before all this he was always laughing, just a great guy to be around."
In June, his son ran away from home.
"We've talked and tried to work things out, but he's still not back," he said. "He's still not our son. Not the kid certainly that left. ")
All he wants is for his son -- the one he knows and loves and remembers -- to come back home.
Part one of this story airs at 6 p.m. on KVAL 13 TV News on Monday, July 19. Watch KVAL News on Tuesday for more on what is being done to regulate Spice - and why health officials think the substance is a hazard.