Surveillance video reveals why legal synthetic drugs can be so dangerous

ST. LOUIS COUNTY, MO (KTVI) – Newly obtained video shows users—who are clearly high—repeatedly coming back for something they know is dangerous.

Fox 2 News obtained the video from a federal court file involving a now closed St. Louis County store. The customers’ behavior may seem amusing at first. Look closer and you’ll see why these drugs that pretend to be legal are so dangerous.

“Look at me, dude! I’m on top of the world,” shouts one female user, whose identity will be protected. “I need a full throttle, ha-ha.” The woman was buying synthetic drugs at a store that’s now shut down: Nights of Rave Smoke Sensations in St. Louis County.

“It just flowed up to me,” she shouts. “God spoke to me, dude!”

She talks for more than a minute about how she’s seen God. “I’ve never seen God the way I saw God. He made Himself known to me.” One of the clerks laughed, saying the drugs must be working.

“Anyone who sees God after enough drugs, ha-ha-ha,” he said. “It’s for real.”

Another man, who’s almost falling down intoxicated, thinks he’s living in a science fiction film. “Is this ‘The Matrix’?”

“Watch out for the agents,” the sales clerk said. That line seemed to spook the buyer.

“That’s how real the Matrix is. That’s just incredible in-(bleeping)-credible.” Pam Tabatt, the former Nights of Rave store owner, is now in federal prison. She sold millions of dollars worth of synthetic drugs to former users like Max Harris.

“I thought with Pam Tabatt behind bars, we would see a decline with all of this going on,” Harris said. Harris watched last week as dozens of people dropped in the streets of St. Louis, reportedly overdosing from synthetic pot. Harris now uses her strength from three years of recovery to help.

“I was that person. I didn’t necessarily see God, but I did see some interesting things, but I can totally relate,” she said. “I know what that stuff does to you. It can make you do awful things. It makes you a person that you’re not.”

Users don't know what they'll get from one hit to the next. Street chemists tweak formulas into blends that aren't yet banned by the government.

“It’s a chemistry game to most of them, to try to see how many molecules they can switch so they can live under the radar,” said DEA Task Force Officer Juan Wilson.

Officer Wilson said people often ask him the same question: why help people who don't appear to want help?

“A lot of people who have been saved, a lot of people who are in recovery, are our biggest advocates for recovery,” he said. “I can’t do it by myself. Law enforcement can’t do it alone. We’ve had the model of we’re not going to arrest our way out of it, but we’ve kind of reformed it to ‘we can’t do it alone.’”