Synthetic Drugs Blamed For Local Man's Death - WSMV Channel 4

Synthetic Drugs Blamed For Local Man's Death

Updated: June 2, 2011
Chris Creel Chris Creel

You've heard a lot about those dangerous "synthetic drugs" like bath salts available at gas stations. They've been officially banned in Tennessee. But in many places they're still on the shelves, and they're still killing people. 

The Channel 4 I-Team's undercover cameras first uncovered these chemically altered drugs more than a year ago. Since then, the Legislature passed a ban on many of the products, and several police departments have started seizing them. But the legal ban doesn't go into effect until July 1, and it doesn't prohibit every drug out there on the market. 

Synthetic drugs are still somewhat easy to find on store shelves across the state. That's why Shelley Ashburn said she wanted her brother's death to act as an example for others. The products are dangerous, and the consequences can be as serious as death. 

"We found multiple empty packages around him," said Ashburn. 

Ashburn's brother, Chris Creel, died about three weeks ago. He was 36 years old and the father of two girls. His autopsy showed he died of a drug overdose. 

"He was trying to find a job, so he said he wanted to stop smoking marijuana, so he started smoking these incense 'cause it wouldn't show up on a drug test," said Ashburn. 

Ashburn said a combination of synthetic marijuana sold as herbal incense and synthetic cocaine contributed to her brother's death. 

"It was definitely a contributing factor in his death. It doesn't show up in a toxicology screen, so we can't prove it, but when multiple packages are found around somebody and he died of a drug overdose," said Ashburn, nodding. 

"They buy it and they like it," said a local store owner. 

The I-Team went undercover with a camera inside some of the many stores in Nashville selling synthetic drugs. One gas station owner said last April he sells the stuff because it makes him money and people want it. 

But after the I-Team's first two investigations into products such as K2, Ganja, and White Lighting, lawmakers made moves to ban the substances health experts call physically dangerous. For now, many stores can keep selling synthetic drugs until the state ban goes into effect in July. 

"Anybody who is doing it needs to stop," said Ashburn. 

Ashburn said she's praying anyone who hears about what happened to her brother will understand even if these substances are legal for a little while longer, the consequences can kill. 

"I just don't want anyone else to end up the way he did, and even if it's not to this extreme of death, it could be long-term illnesses, brain damage, it could be anything," said Ashburn. 

At least one of these products was traced to Murfreesboro, where investigators said they believe it is being manufactured. That will have to stop by July 1, but the problems could persist beyond then. 

Synthetic drug makers have already changed their products' names and even chemical makeup countless times to skirt around state laws.

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