Emily Bauer, 16, was recently hospitalized for weeks due to the adverse effects that synthetic marijuana had on her brain. Although there is no MRI of her brain before the injuries and thus, doctors are unable to determine how long ago she began to use synthetic marijuana, her family believes Emily began to take the synthetic drug two weeks before her hospital visit.
Bryant, Emily’s stepfather, already knew she used real marijuana occasionally. He stated in an interview that he did not condone it, but that he was aware of his inability to control her when she was not at home. “Had I thought that there was any chance that she could have been hurt by this stuff, I would have been a lot more vigilant. I had no idea it was so bad,” Bryant said.”
The synthetic drug used by Emily is best known by the street names “Spice” or “K2,” which is an herbal mixture sprayed with chemicals that’s meant to create a high similar to smoking marijuana, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Synthetic marijuana was linked to 11,406 drug-related emergency department visits in 2010.
This synthetic drug had been outlawed in many states however, drug manufacturers were altering chemical compounds so that the drug no longer fit the description of the banned drug. In 2011 and 2012, states began enacting laws with broader language.
On the day Emily smoked Spice, she complained of a migraine and took a nap at her house and woke up a different person. Stumbling and slurring her words, she morphed into a psychotic state of hallucinations and violent outbursts, her family said. Her family then called 911 after they realized she had done some drug. When paramedics arrived, they restrained her and rushed her to a Houston-area hospital, where she was admitted to the ICU. She bit guardrails and attempted to bite those trying to help her. Hospital staff strapped Emily down in the bed, said her sister.
To keep Emily safe, doctors put her in an induced coma. Up until December 13, Emily had been in an induced coma the whole time and her only movements were involuntary reflexes. Doctors asked to drill a hole in Emily’s skull and insert a tube to relieve pressure and drain excess fluid.
Doctors explained to her family, Emily’s future. She would likely not recognize her family. She would be completely unaware of her surroundings. She would never be able to eat on her own and never regain function of her arms and legs, her family said.
Three days after pulling life support, the Bauer family marked a day they didn’t think they would: Emily’s 17th birthday. Two weeks ago, Emily started eating solid food again.
Bryant and his family are starting a nonprofit organization called Synthetic Awareness For Emily. Their goal with SAFE is to educate families, as well as teachers and doctors, about the dangers and warning signs of synthetic marijuana use.