LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) – In the summer of 2011, 18-year-old Brandon Murphree had just graduated from high school and was headed to college on a full scholarship. His parents went from being excited for their son and his accomplishments to being very worried about him.
"I started noticing him being very hateful to me, not being the Brandon I know," said his mother, Lori Murphree.
The drastic changes in Brandon's personality went from bad to worse.
"He was just so out of it, the paranoia," said Brandon's father, Steve Murphree.
The Murphrees said they didn't know what was wrong with Brandon, but they never once suspected drugs.
On July 3, 2011, Lori found her son dead in his room. He had shot himself.
"All I saw, what made me realize what happened, I just saw a little puddle of blood," said Lori.
"I just held him, begged for him to breathe," said Steve. "He was my world."
Steve and Lori later learned from Brandon's friends that he had been smoking synthetic marijuana, also known as Spice, and that he was addicted to it.
A day after his son's death, Steve found empty packages of Spice in Brandon's car and even receipts from a local head shop where he bought it.
"I would give anything if we had been educated about this stuff," said Lori.
Synthetic marijuana became popular with users -- specifically teens – because it was known as the "safe" drug since it was not detected in the body. Until now.
"People have the notion that if you have the drug test, that whatever drug you're taking is going to be identified, and that's not really true," said Dr. Bruce Romeo with a company called Any Lab Test Now.
Screenings are now available to test specifically for compounds found in Spice and bath salts. Since last year, Dr. Romeo's lab has been performing those tests.
Romeo said it was only a matter of time before fake pot could be detected in drug screenings. "The problem with these drugs, technically they've been legal, have been sold in legal quick marts. As it's been identified to become a problem as a drug of abuse, then there's available testing to test for it."
Within the past year, there have only been about a dozen parents who have brought in their teens for the testing. Dr. Romeo thinks it's because of the lack of awareness.
"If they suspect there's a problem, I think more parents don't know what to do, often won't go to a drug store get a drug kit," Romeo said.
Romeo said in a couple of cases, parents drug-tested their teens at home and the results were negative, then they brought them to Any Lab Test Now, and they tested positive for synthetic marijuana.
ARCpoint Labs in Louisville and Shepherdsville does the same type of testing. Click here for more information.
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