EL CAJON, Calif. -
Team 10 got an unfiltered opinion of the intense lure of the synthetic drug "spice" directly from a problem user.
In a recent photo, Kiavik Galarza is shown excited to be graduating from Chaparral High in El Cajon, but the prospect of graduating wasn't what has him so pumped.
Galarza was high on the designer drug known as spice.
"It's way higher than marijuana. I like the rush, I like the high," said Galarza.
Galarza first discovered the high at age 17, when he bought the synthetic marijuana at a liquor store.
Within months, he had stopped smoking marijuana in favor of spice.
"My routine is to smoke a blunt every time I woke up; I would smoke 10 to 15 blunts a day." said Galarza.
Galarza is hardly alone.
According to surveys, about one in 9 high school seniors has tried synthetic drugs. Calls to poison control centers have gone up from about 300 in 2010 to 6,700 in 2011
Emergency room doctors have reported reactions to spice and bath salts like psychosis, hallucinations and cardiac arrest. Still, designer drug use continues to grab headlines.
Police suspect actor Johnny Lewis was high before he apparently killed his landlady and jumped to his death.
Last year, detectives said Poway High School student Luke Lipscomb apparently shot himself while high on marijuana laced with hallucinogens.
As for spice, Galarza said he there's no mistaking the effects.
"When it starts kicking in, you feel your eyes dropping, you start feeling dizzy and all of a sudden you feel like you're in a zone," said Galarza.
Galarza added, "If you would just get mad normally, and you get high on spice, it would get you mad twice, it would be twice as worse. Sometimes I can't stop myself and I fight my own friends."
He said another effect of spice can lead to committing crimes.
"Spice puts you in the mood where you don't care at all. You don't care, you don't have a heart, your mind is way off. You don't think at the time, you just do it," Galarza said.
After six months of using spice, Galarza said he started losing his short-term memory.
In the wake of an arrest for tagging and shoplifting, mandatory drug testing forced him to join a rehab program. Galarza said he got clean easily and isn't addicted.
Still, he admits he'll likely smoke spice again because of the lure of a high.
In the past year, local, state and federal laws have cracked down on the sale of spice and bath salts in stores.
Galarza believes those laws could be effective because many youth like him become exposed to the drugs by seeing it in a store.