The parents of 14-year-old Dakota Dyer said their son's suicide is connected to synthetic marijuana, and U.S. Postal Inspectors warn that children are buying the drug online.
"My son was the light of my life," said Dakota's mother, Deanna Dyer.
Deanna and Dakota's father, Lance Dyer, said their lives were shattered when they came home to find their youngest child and only son had shot himself.
"What did I miss? What red flag did I not see as a father?" asked Lance.
"Never saw signs, never saw symptoms, never saw anything," added Deanna.
A review of Dakota's Facebook posts and text messages showed he was planning to try synthetic marijuana just days before he died.
"When you can have a normal, popular, happy, loved-life child die and within hours can just change his perception of the world?" asked Deanna.
The Dyers are just one of dozens of parents whose children have died or were seriously harmed after using some form of a synthetic drug.
"The drug can act differently with different people," warned Deanna. "One person can take it, and they are OK. Another person can take the exact same drug, and they have a psychotic episode and can't deal with reality."
The so-called fake pot is created with various chemical compounds and is designed to mimic the effects of marijuana. Officials said it is commonly marketed under names like K2 or Bob's Bud.
Authorities warn the drugs, marketed over the Internet and social media, come in colorful packaging adorned with cartoons and sometime labeled as incense. Many parents have no idea what their kids are buying.
"After the loss of my son, I would definitely, definitely, even though I didn't have a reason to, I would monitor. Monitor cellphone activity, monitor social media," advised Deanna.
"It's not to invade your child's privacy. It's protecting your child," added Lance.
Postal inspectors said they are seeing more of these cases as children purchase the drugs over the Internet and receive them in the mail.
"Don't assume that that is not a dangerous substance," said U.S. Postal Inspector John Bailey. "In the end, it is likely to be chemicals imported from China to people who have no idea what the substances are, and you have no idea what these chemicals will be when they are ingested into your body."
Authorities said manufacturers are constantly coming up with new chemical formulas to circumvent federal and state laws banning specific ingredients used to make synthetic drugs.
The Dyer family is pushing for passage of a federal law to outlaw all forms of synthetic pot and prosecute those who manufacture the drugs. The Dyers said a strong federal law is needed to help law enforcement stay ahead of the chemists trying to dodge the law.