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MOBILE, Alabama – Lance Dyer doesn’t want parents to be like him, and he doesn’t want kids to be like his son.

On March 10, 2012, Dyer’s life changed forever when his 14-year-old son, Dakota, took his own life while under the influence of synthetic marijuana, commonly known as spice.

The Georgia native spoke with court and law officials, school counselors and parents on Thursday, Aug. 22, as a guest of the Drug Education Council and the Community of Concern. His message: synthetic substances such as spice are “poison,” and can kill.

During a news conference at Government Plaza, Dyer told about his son making “the worst decision of his life,” and how it cost him his own.

“We have to, as parents, as a community, understand what we’re dealing with,” he said. “This is a new animal we’re having to fight.”

According to his father, Dakota was a healthy teenager, and a starting defensive end on his high school football team. The night before his death, father and son sat discussing the weekend’s activities over milk and cookies in the family kitchen. A little over 24 hours later, he had used a gun to try and end his life during what Dyer called a “psychotic break.”

“His last text message looked like binary code,” he said. “No two letters made a word.

“26 minutes later I found my son in the front door of our house with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.”

Dyer said he’d had the “drug talk,” the “sex talk” and the “alcohol talk” with Dakota, but never dreamed of having to discuss synthetic substances with him, because he didn’t know they existed. And because of a single “bad, uninformed choice,” his son is dead, he said.

“I was there the day my son drew his first breath; I literally held him in my arms when he drew his last,” Dyer said.

And nothing sold in convenience stores or over the Internet “should ever cause a parent to have to hold their son in their arms as they leave this world,” he said.

Like Dyer, Mobile County Drug Court Magistrate Edward Blount said synthetic chemicals like spice may be called synthetic cannabinoids or marijuana but they are nothing like “pot” or “weed.” 

“It’s a seriously harmful substance,” Blount said. “It in no way acts, behaves or reacts like marijuana.

“It’s specifically packaged and marketed for children, adolescents and teenagers.”

Deputies with the Mobile County Sheriff’s Office were also on hand to demonstrate a new tool in the fight against synthetic substances, called the TruNarc. The small, $25,000 machine can test samples of the drugs -- including methamphetamine -- and identify the contents in a matter of minutes, as opposed to the year or more it takes for the Department of Forensic Sciences to return results, according to Sheriff Sam Cochran.

He said his office eventually plans to purchase two of the TruNarc machines.

According to Dyer, such devices are crucial to combatting the rise of synthetic poisons, because, “If it continues the way it’s going now, five years from now cocaine, meth, marijuana will be resigned to the history books.”

“That stuff will kill you,” he said. “It will kill your child.

“You don’t want to be me.”

Dyer will visit students at St. Paul's Episcopal School, UMS-Wright Preparatory School and Murphy High School on Friday, Aug. 23. 

Published: August 22, 2013 at 4:55 PM

Updated August 22, 2013 at 9:55 PM

By Michael Dumas | mdumas@al.com Press-Register

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