Hawaiian Haze, Scooby Snax -- playfully colored packages with catchy names don’t reflect the danger of the synthetic drug known as Spice.
“Spice and synthetic drugs truly are playing Russian roulette with a loaded gun," Devin Eckhardt told NBC 7 Wednesday.
Eckhardt knows that painful reality all too well. Last July, he and his wife spent the month praying over their 19-year-old son Connor.
But the San Clemente teen never woke from his coma after his parents say he took one hit of Spice while they were away on vacation.
“It’s been 498 days since Connor passed,” remembered his father. “That's 16 and a half months. There’s not a moment of the day that goes by we don't think of him."
San Diego Fire-Rescue officials said crews are seeing a rise in Spice use downtown.
Just this week, 14 people were hospitalized after police say they overdosed on what they're calling a bad batch, packaged in black with a blue dragon.
Spice is often referred to as synthetic marijuana, but experts say the mix of chemicals sprayed on leaves or other substances is anything but natural.
“This is underground chemists that are constantly trying to stay ahead of any legal reform by altering the molecular chain, introducing new chemicals,” said Eckhardt.
2011 was the highest year on record for synthetic cannabinoid calls to American Association of Poison Control Centers: 6,968 nationwide.
This year that record could be broken. Only 19 more calls would break the record, and there’s a month left in the year.
The alarming numbers and death of their son are reasons why the Eckhardts started the Connor Project Foundation.
“If that could impact one young person to change how they think, decisions they make, the friends they hang out with, we thought it would be worth it,” said Echkardt.
It is illegal to sell Spice in California, but it’s still sold in some gas stations and smoke shops as potpourri and incense.
To find out more about the Connor Project foundation click here.