WASHINGTON, D.C. (Oct. 22, 2015) -- Using illegal drugs puts a person in an immediate "life or death" situation, said George Suber, a prevention coordinator for the Army Substance Abuse Program, or ASAP, on Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, or JBM-HH.

Suber has been on the front lines helping people to overcome addiction for more than decade. Suber, who will celebrate his seventh year at JBM-HH in November, was trained in the Air Force as a drug and alcohol counselor in 1985. He's also worked at Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, or CSOSA, a federal agency located in Washington, D.C.

"[I helped] with ex-offenders coming out of federal prisons," he said. "We assisted with their transition back into society, helped them to obtain life skills, group skills, and helped them through drug addictions."

DEADLY CONSEQUENCES

He recently explained how he witnessed the tragic death of one of his clients. One day, Suber said that he met with a client and after the client left his office, he drank liquid methadone, a drug used for pain, chased it with liquor, and the client then went outside in the hot sun. Thirty minutes later he was found dead outside, Suber said.

Because of what he has witnessed, Suber wants to make Soldiers aware of a particular drug, Spice, which has plagued the National Capital Region for months. In July, fueled by its increased use, Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser signed a law that gave Metropolitan Police Department the authority to shut down any store for 96 hours for selling illegal drugs and fine them $10,000. In early September, Metropolitan Police officers seized 265 pounds of synthetic marijuana in Northwest Washington, D.C.

"This synthetic drug [has caused] people to do harm to themselves as well as others," Suber said. "For me, it's [making people aware] ... because this drug is affecting people's lives and killing folks."

SYNTHETIC BUT ILLEGAL

Spice is a synthetic cannabinoid that drug dealers use to spray on marijuana to enhance its psychoactive affect, according to the Office of National Drug Control Policy. Spice, also known as K2, Summit, Scooby Snax, was first reported to be found in Dayton, Ohio, on a boat in 2008 by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, according to the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

In 2012, President Barack Obama signed the Synthetic Drug Abuse Prevention Act that categorized synthetic marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug, making it a criminal act to distribute or use it. Forty states, including Maryland and Virginia, have changed their laws to enforce harsher penalties on those caught smoking, distributing or intending to distribute it.

The drug identification catalog "Streetdrugs," which is used by law enforcement agencies, universities and hospitals, wrote in its annual report that the basic ingredients in Spice can cause people to react in unpredictable ways.

SERIOUS SIDE EFFECTS

"[This] fake drug, this synthetic drug ... alters people's minds and moods," Suber explained.

Suber said smoking spice, like traditional marijuana, will result in having a bloodshot red eyes with a glazed over look.

But the physical reactions to Spice and marijuana are different.

"A lot of people [experience] paranoia, hallucinations, and dizziness," he said.

This drug also causes panic attacks and giddiness and, according to Suber, can even cause people to become very violent. He also warned that though there are some common reactions to the drug, not everyone may experience the same effects.

PREVENTION IS KEY

Suber believes that by informing people about the health effects as well as the social and legal ramifications caused by Spice use will also help equip Soldiers to make informed decisions about the drugs, even when they are off duty - away from their commanders.

"Even though our Soldiers live on base, they socialize and interact with civilian counterparts [off the base]," he said.

He said if there are Soldiers with knowledge of others who are maybe using Spice, or abusing other drugs, they should get help as fast as possible. He said that his office is prepared to help those who want the help.

"Soldiers are always welcomed to come to ASAP office," he said.

In all, the drug prevention specialist and counselor does not want to see Soldiers discharged for poor choices.

"Most people who come to the military don't come [in] to go home," he said.