Man describes addiction to synthetic drugs
EDWARDSVILLE (MCT) — A Bethalto man who says he's hooked on synthetic marijuana says he routinely bought products at an Edwardsville store raided this week by federal and local authorities.
The closure of the store may be the best thing to happen to him, he said, as he attempts to clean up his life.
"I've been involved in this for a while. It's been a really bad scene for a long time," said the man, who asked not to be identified.
Authorities on Wednesday served a search warrant on The Grind, 1009 Century Drive, located in a strip shopping center near Edwardsville High School. The store purports to be a skateboard and T-shirt shop, but both the customer interviewed and the Madison County state's attorney say there was a steady stream of people going into the business for other products.
"There was a lot of business going on there. Either they were selling a lot of T-shirts or something else," prosecutor Tom Gibbons said.
The Grind was one of four locations on which search warrants were served and products seized on Wednesday. The other three locations are not yet being identified, but Gibbons described them as shops similar in nature to The Grind. Two of the sites are in Granite City; the other is in Cottage Hills.
The biggest seizure went down in Edwardsville, where some 50 pounds of products were removed, Gibbons said.
Numerous similar locations were targeted at the same time in St. Clair County and in counties surrounding the St. Louis area, as part of a national effort called Operation Log Jam.
In Illinois, where Attorney General Lisa Madigan has actively pushed stores to remove synthetic drug products from their shelves, the products have become increasingly difficult to find.
The Grind customer interviewed by The Telegraph said he bought products there frequently. They were marketed as "herbal incense," but actually are leafy substances coated with chemicals that prove addictive if the product is smoked, he said. The customer said the products are made by Cloud Nine Blend.com, under product names such as Primo, Optima and Crazy Eyes.
The product package clearly says the product is "not intended for human consumption."
"It used to be in a showcase at the cash register. Since Lisa Madigan has gone around raiding these places, they were keeping it behind the counter," the customer said.
Gibbons said the products seized at the shop are in the county's custody and will be tested as evidence, with charges coming, if appropriate.
Gibbons said now that the search warrant on The Grind was executed, the owners are free to open "the legitimate part of their business."
However, neither owners nor employees were present on Wednesday, and the shop had a closed sign on it Thursday, he said.
Gibbons said the raid was a multi-jurisdictional effort, involving both federal and local officers.
The Grind customer said he went to the store Wednesday morning to find authorities present. An Edwardsville police officer was posted in front of the business. Five or six individuals were inside, filling up trash bags of products.
"The cop asked me if I was an employee and told me to leave. I got out of there. People were scattering.
"I was there to buy more of this," he said about the incense. "They have smoking paraphernalia, water pipes, but everyone is in there for the same thing, this herbal incense."
He said he became addicted to smoking the products he bought at the store.
"It's much stronger than actual marijuana. I would describe myself today as having withdrawals from not being able to buy anything (Wednesday)."
He recently underwent drug treatment at Christian Hospital in North St. Louis County, Mo., he said. Counselors, he said, seemed a little unsure how to treat him because of the relatively new nature of the problem.
"I felt a little ashamed, being in treatment for this, sitting next to heroin addicts and people who have been on crack and cocaine. I almost felt like I didn't have credibility in a rehab program. I'm glad this happened," he said. "People need to become aware of this.
"I'm not alone; there are a lot of others out there in the same boat," he added.
The man said he is an engineer by trade and was granted a leave of absence from work because of his growing addiction.
Even with treatment, he said the addiction has become unmanageable. He is undergoing personality changes and not able to see or think clearly.
"I've spent a lot of money, thousands," he said. "I've wasted a lot of money."
His biggest hope, he said, is to cut off the local supply so as not to be tempted.
"I've not done much physical activity the last six months. I'm pretty broken down right now. I need to fix my tires and get back down the road."