St. Tammany authorities warn of new drugs’ dangers

Advocate staff file photo by SCOTT THRELKELD -- Dena and Michael Lopez address the media during a news conference Friday, May 25, 2013, at the Slidell Police Department. The Lopezes' daughter, Meghan Lopez, 21, died April 3, 2013, in Hammond after snorting a synthetic hallucinogenic drug popularly called C-Boom or N-Bomb. The two are trying to warn children and parents of the dangers of the drug.
Advocate staff file photo by SCOTT THRELKELD -- Dena and Michael Lopez address the media during a news conference Friday, May 25, 2013, at the Slidell Police Department. The Lopezes' daughter, Meghan Lopez, 21, died April 3, 2013, in Hammond after snorting a synthetic hallucinogenic drug popularly called C-Boom or N-Bomb. The two are trying to warn children and parents of the dangers of the drug.

Dena and Michael Lopez were expecting their 21-year-old daughter to come home to Slidell last month after she returned from an Easter break picnic with a friend.

But Meghan Lopez never made it home. The Southeastern Louisiana University sophomore and her companion had packed up blankets, foods and fishing poles for an outing in a rural part of Hammond. But the picnic also included an encounter with a synthetic hallucinogenic drug that goes by a variety of names: 25-I, C-Boom and N-Bomb.

For Meghan, the encounter was a fatal one. Campus police contacted her parents, directing them to the hospital, where the young woman was on a ventilator. A single dose of the powdered drug, which Meghan Lopez apparently inhaled, sent her heart into arrhythmia, her mother said. Her lungs stopped working, and her brain was deprived of oxygen.

Doctors told them her brain had been significantly damaged. After an overnight bedside vigil, her parents made the difficult decision to end life support. She died on April 3.

C-Boom is not like other drugs, “where you have a little fun and go home,” Dena Lopez said. “Meghan certainly thought she was coming home that night and she didn’t. One dose, one drop can kill you.”

Dena Lopez believes that if her daughter had known that, she wouldn’t have taken a chance. Now, her parents are trying to spread the word to other families about how dangerous the drug is.

That’s a message that Slidell police and the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office also want to deliver. At a news conference Friday morning, law enforcement officials said that there has been a recent surge in cases of young people using the drug, which officials described as similar to LSD or PCP.

Deputies and local police have responded to calls about people under the influence of the drugs at least five times in the last week, according to a sheriff’s office news release.

On May 15, Slidell police answered a call at an apartment complex and found two men in the parking lot covered with blood — so much blood that officers initially feared it was a homicide.

The two men had been cutting each other with glass from a broken mirror after ransacking an apartment, police said.

The men were incoherent, according to the release, but one told officers that his “brain was cooking.”That same morning, Slidell police went to the scene of another disturbance and found one man passed out and another on top of him, pulling his hair out, the release said. It took seven officers to subdue that young man, whom police described as a recent high school graduate. After he was taken to the hospital, he stopped breathing at one point and had to be resuscitated and placed on a ventilator, police said.

“It defies logic, the level of violence toward each other and police officers,” Slidell Police Capt. Kevin Swann said at a Friday news conference.

Police said that those involved have been young people without any prior history of violence. Authorities say that they believe the drugs are being purchased on the Internet.

The surge in incidents coincides with passage of legislation in Baton Rouge to make the drugs illegal. House Bill 10, by Rep. Kevin Pearson, R-Slidell, was signed into law Thursday, and it puts the drugs and a lengthy list of components used to make them on Schedule I of the Uniform Controlled Dangerous Substances Law.

Pearson, who appeared with Lopez’ parents at a news conference Friday, said he started working to outlaw the drugs when a young man died at Voodoo Fest last fall after taking a single dose.

“We are way ahead of other states in trying to get out in front,” he said. He praised the Lopez family for trying to help others avoid the heartbreak they have suffered.

But authorities said making the drugs illegal is only part of the solution. “Parents must talk to their kids,’’ Swann said. Using these drugs is “playing with death,” he said.

Dena Lopez said that some of the young people at her daughter’s service still didn’t seem to understand just how deadly the drugs are. “There were horrible side effects ... she had a horrible, tormented time out at that pond,” she said.