A 13-year-old Pennsylvania boy who underwent a double-lung transplant after his lungs collapsed from smoking synthetic marijuana in a plastic pipe made from a Pez candy dispenser has died from an infection.
Brandon Rice became ill after smoking the fake marijuana in June. He complained of numbness in his hands and feet, said he was unable to breathe, and was vomiting blood. He was transported to the hospital where images of his chest showed severe chemical burns in his collapsed lungs.
His parents, Ray and Tonya, said the doctors questioned their son to find out what he had smoked or ingested and he admitted to smoking marijuana. The Rice's searched his bedroom and found a blend of "synthetic marijuana called Spice." According to police, "the substance goes by many names but is most popularly known as K-2," reports WPXI.
The substance was labeled and sold as potpourri or incense when Brandon smoked it through the homemade candy dispenser pipe. "You can smell the chemical in it but it's a potpourri that these kids are smoking. It's crazy. I'm sure the Spice had a lot to do with it, but he also inhaled a lot of plastic," Ray Rice said.
Brandon was put on a respirator in June and had a double lung transplant in September. His immune system, weakened from the transplant, was unable to fight off a recent infection. The Rice's hoped for a miracle for their son, but that was not to come, he passed away in his sleep this morning at UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, according to Pittsburgh TribLive.
In August, Brandon's parents went public with their experience in hopes that no other parent or child would have to go through what they were dealing with. Tonya Rice told WPXI, "they also hope other parents hear their story and share it with their children."
The tragedy that claimed Brandon's life came months before Gov. Tom Corbett signed a bill into law that outlawed the sale of 'fake drugs' like K2, Spice, Vanilla Sky, Salvia and bath salts that produce a marijuana-like high after being ingested. Pennsylvania became the 21st state to ban the sale of synthetic drugs, which are known to cause agitation, paranoia and hallucinations, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Pennsylvania State Rep. Jennifer Mann, D-Lehigh said in a press statement:
"These poisons are called ‘fake drugs,’ but the danger they present to young people and the burden the use of these ‘fake’ drugs puts on our police departments and hospitals is all too real. As of today we’re giving our police officers the tools they need to get these drugs off the street and out of retail stores.”
“The biggest problem with these drugs was access – a 17-year old couldn’t walk into a mini-mart and buy cigarettes or walk into a bar and buy alcohol without severe repercussions for the teenager and for the business doing the selling, but before this law that same teenager could walk into a smoke shop and buy a synthetic version of cocaine that’s been called even more intense and dangerous than the real drug by addicts.”
Under the new law. first-time offenders convicted of simple possession will face up to a year in jail and a $5000. fine. Those convicted of the more serious crime of possession with the intent to deliver will face up to five years in prison and a $15,000 fine.