'Bath Salts,' 'Spice' and US Military: Are Service Members Abusing Synthetic Drugs?


But van Zeller's cameras were rolling when Chris purchased half a gram of bath salts during her undercover investigation. He said what sets them apart from other drugs is their "intense-ness."

"I think the funniest thing is to find out how far I can take it," he said.

Chris told van Zeller he was addicted to alcohol when he entered the Marines, but at some point, he switched to synthetic drugs. He said he joined the Marines because he was "running away" from "situations and problems" at home.

"[But] it followed me into the Marine Corps," he said. "I've tried at looking deep inside of me and making a strong prayer and, you know, balling my eyes out. But once you pick up that substance, I found my body just keep-- wants to do it."

According to Jordan, professional help is not really an option in the Marines.

"Just by me telling them that I have a problem, I'm admitting to using drugs," he said. "The current 'zero tolerance' policy for the Marine Corps is that no drugs are tolerated."

National Geographic reached out to the U.S. Marine Corps for comment on synthetic drug use in the corps and the treatment of addiction, and the producers were told they could not meet their deadline. But in the same week that they last spoke to Chris, the Navy launched a massive awareness campaign about the dangers of bath salts, which included a public service announcement showing the reenactment of a sailor having a bad trip. The Navy's campaign illustrates that synthetic drugs are a growing concern in the military.

And things seem to be turning around for Chris, who said he has been sober since November 2012 when National Geographic producers last checked in with him. He said quitting wasn't entirely his choice. One day he was pulled over by military police and as he was being questioned about his strange behavior, he admitted to using bath salts. But Chris said that it wasn't military authorities that convinced him to stop using, but God.

"I gave my life back to God," he said. "Every day since it has happened, I always keep a Bible on me and I read proverbs daily."

Chris is being processed out of the Marines, and even weeks later, the physical toll of the drug was still evident. He said he was still spitting up mucus and his body was "still transforming" after becoming sober.

"That's the strongest substance that I have ever dealt with in my life, with coming down off it, it's terrible," he said.

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