"Chandler was my invincible, precious ADD 19 year old. Just amazing larger than life boy," said Lisa Thomas.
Chandler Thomas was an Austin, Texas native and a freshman at the University of Arkansas in 2013.
"At 2:45 I mean we were talking about finals and how he was going to get home," said Thomas.
But Chandler never made it home for Christmas. He was rushed to the ER at Washington Regional Medical Center on November 11th after taking a drug called 25i.
“Your absolute worst nightmare. You dream of what the worst thing in the world could be or that could happen to a child. Or you think about it or the worst call that you could ever get in the middle of the night. It's the one thing that you would you would just pray to God that would never happen has just happened," said Chandler’s father, Robin Thomas.
According to texts between Chandler and a friend, he bought the 25i on the University of Arkansas’ campus. It's a synthetic drug 66 times more potent than LSD. It's so new, the local drug task force says it only worked 4 cases of it in 2013 and 10 so far this year.
"I personally was not familiar with this drug. Nor were any of my colleagues or staff here. We had not heard of it before," said Dr. Reneé diamond, D.O.
Chandler's symptoms included 5 hours of seizures and a 106º degree fever. No medication appeared to help, leaving doctors very confused.
Dr. Reneé Diamond, D.O. worked on the team of doctors with Chandler. "But what was so different that I have never experienced in any other situation with illicit drug use was the constant irritability and movement night and day. To the point here he was causing extreme injury to his own skin,” said Diamond.
They took to books and the Internet searching, for clues or any information to help cure Chandler.
"We did intensive literature searches. My husband as a neurologist was also involved in this case. And he even sent emails to a man in the United Kingdom who had first hand experience in clinical case scenarios with this drug in the United Kingdom...and gathering information about his experience how we can treat this...so it was a learning process for all of us as we were going," said Dr. Diamond.
Chandler spent 21 days in the hospital, before dying of a massive heart attack. His mom, Lisa Thomas, now works to educate people about the drug that took her son's life.
She's created a group called "Students Opposing Substances" to teach college students and parents about the dangers of 25i.
“I want to help any student. I want to help any family, that has questions,” said Thomas.
The University of Arkansas is getting involved too.
Shortly after Chandler's death, the school sent out a letter warning students about 25i. And now new support groups are also in the works.
"This next year we're working on something that we're calling our recovery education and accountability program which is kind of like an AA that will allow students who are having substance issues to be able to come together and talk," said Scott Flanagin, University of Arkansas student affairs communications director.
After seeing Chandler's condition, Dr. Diamond said anyone thinking of taking this drug, should reconsider.
"It's playing Russian roulette. And how much is your life worth? You can destroy your life, you can kill yourself, you can destroy all of the people who love you and for a few hours of potential enjoyment," said Diamond.
It's a harsh reality Chandler’s mother doesn't want for anyone else.
"I'm standing up here telling you all of this because I didn't have any control of his decisions. And it's real now and unfortunately he's not coming back."
“You never believe that this will be your child...and believe me, he didn't think it would be him either," said Thomas.
Students Opposing Substances has gained national attention, drawing support from big names like wrestling star Mark Henry, and Washington Redskins quarterback Colt McCoy.
Here in the natural state, 25i has killed 14 people since 2010 and it's becoming a more common issue in Northwest Arkansas.
In the past couple of weeks alone, Fayetteville's drug task force says they have worked an additional 2 cases involving the drug. Prosecutors say, anyone caught with 25i faces up to 20 years in prison and a $15,000 dollar fine.
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