Consumer Advocate: Man dies after using designer drugs sold online
It's a deadly high that's completely legal.
Designer drugs are being sold online, shipped to local homes, and there's nothing law enforcement can do about it. By changing one molecule, once-illegal drugs suddenly become legal.
That change also makes them incredibly potent.
The drugs claimed the life of Anthony Colli of Lincoln in August.
"I loved him more than anything," said his mother Karen. "He was my world."
Last August, Anthony's sister found him unresponsive in his bed. It wasn't until January an autopsy report finally confirmed what Karen suspected - her son was killed by a legal drug.
"The problem is, you don't need to go out and find a dealer, you just, you know, access the darknet and you're good to go," said Karen. "You order it and it comes right to your door."
Anthony's struggle with anxiety and depression began at an early age. He used benzodiazepines like Valium and Klonopin to treat panic attacks.
But those weren't the only drugs he used.
Karen sent Anthony to rehab last year, and he seemed to be making progress. But, suddenly, his behavior became erratic.
"His drug tests were coming back clean because these drugs aren't detected," said Karen.
Karen suspects he had started using designer drugs, specifically designer benzodiazepines. Benzos are supposed to calm anxiety, but molecules in these drugs are altered to skirt government regulations. Designer benzos can create a completely different reaction.
At the time though, no one knew Anthony was buying these drugs on the darknet - a part of the internet often used for illegal transactions.
Karen still remembers the package that came to her house in August. She questioned Anthony, but he assured her it was just an herbal supplement.
"I don't know why I believed him," she said. "I shouldn't have believed him."
Karen left for vacation that day, and later got a call from her daughter, worried about Anthony's behavior. The next morning, Anthony's sister found him dead in his room, next to a vial of designer benzos.
"Lots of families assume if you can buy something online, it must be legal and safe," said Rep. David Cicilline, D-Rhode Island. "These are dangerous substances, they're incredibly harmful and they're killing people."
Cicilline met Karen at a Rally for Recovery event in the fall. He was so touched by her story, he's introduced the "Protecting Our Youth from Dangerous Synthetic Drugs Act."
Currently before a House subcommittee, the bill would create an inter-agency board of scientists, with the power to make new designer drugs illegal as soon as they hit the market.
For Karen, it means fewer mothers burying their children.
"If it's just me changing one little thing that saves one child, or one mom from having to go through this pain everyday of not having a child here anymore, then Anthony didn't die in vain," said Colli.
Legislators also introduced a companion bill in the Senate. Cicilline said the bill has bi-partisan support. He says he's confident it will eventually become law.