Steele, a former president of the Gilmer Rotary Club, told them that one of the few moments in his adult life which brought him to tears was a few years ago when the club surprised him by making him a Paul Harris Fellow (an honor which costs $1,000). The club made the contribution in his name to get him the honor.
He joked he was going through a “mid-life crisis” by pursuing a new career as an RN, and that he is one of five men in a class of 60 at Kilgore College. He plans to graduate soon.
K2, he said, is viewed as a “recreational drug,” and while technically illegal, is still widely available because the makers keep altering their formulas just enough to stay ahead of laws passed by the Texas Legislature, which meets every two years. (They won’t meet again until 2015.)
He said he had developed an education program at the urging of the Upshur County Sheriff’s Office for deputies and Life Skills classes, which some on probation and others are required to attend.
K2 is a hallucinogen, which he said is 10 times as potent as the hallucinogenic substance in marijuana.
He gave an example of its dangers: Recently, on Hwy. 300, two men were driving along and felt the need to relieve themselves. Rather than pulling off the road or onto a rural road, they stopped in the middle of the highway, and before they resumed traveling, a car came by and clipped off the open door of the vehicle.
The person who hit them called 911, and a deputy later saw the car, minus a door, and stopped them. The men, who had been using K2, were so stoned or otherwise out of it that they didn’t realize they were missing a door, or that anything was wrong.
He said that, while convenience stores in this area are currently pretty good about not carrying K2 products, it is often found in tattoo parlors, “nonreputable” smoke shops, and some other places.
Sometimes, it’s sold as “incense,” but Steele said that it isn’t the kind you use to freshen up your bathroom.
(Gilmer police have had to periodically caution some local stores not to sell the stuff.)
While most in the Rotary Club luncheon audience were not aware of the substance, “I guarantee you that if you have teenagers, they know about it.”
He said when he asked his wife if she know about K2, she initially replied, “yes, the second-highest peak in the world.” Steele told her he meant the drug, not the mountain.
They asked their two teens about it, and both boys replied, “yes, we see it (at school) every day.”
Steele said that another problem K2 is not detected by standard drug tests.
He gave out pictures showing what it looks like—potpourri—and how often packages carry images resembling popular cartoon or action figures, such as “Scooby Snax Potpoirri.” In these packages, he said, it is obviously marketed to children.
In addition to being hallucinogenic, it affects the central nervous system and the immune system, and severe reactions have even included sudden death.
Steele said he often helps staff the Good Shepherd Emergency Room in Longview on weekends, and sometimes sees people being treated for it.
Asked about the origins of K2, Steele said that one opinion is that it was a “growth stimulant” (sort of a fertilizer) used on marijuana. Those growing it found that the plants fertilized with the basis for K2 were much more potent than those without, and decided to try the substance alone.
He said other drugs adults need to be aware of are “bath salts,” and “incense” which is psychotropic, rather than just smelling good.
(Someone later told this reporter that K2 can be made out of commonly available herbs that can be treated with readily available items to alter their chemistry.)