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Men found dead likely died of plant food overdose

Ray Ausbon, 21, and Zachary Tigner, 19, were found at the Boylan Apartments on Hillsborough Street.
October 9, 2010 12:13:04 PM PDT
Police say a NC State student and another man found dead on a fire escape last weekend likely died after overdosing on a plant food commonly known on the street as 'Meow-Meow.'

Ray Ausbon, 21, and Zachary Tigner, 19, were found at the Boylan Apartments at 817 Hillsborough Street Saturday morning.

Raleigh Police spokesperson Jim Sughrue said autopsy results weren't back yet, but the investigation so far points to an overdose of Mephedrone.

It's an amphetamine, which is closely related to an African shrub that people chew for a pick-me-up.

Popular among ravers, Mephedrone's effects are similar to cocaine, meth and ecstasy with symptoms ranging from euphoria and heavy hallucination to more toxic effects.

Officials strongly caution against the inappropriate use of Mephedrone and any other substance which may be harmful to people taking it.

Investigators have linked the drug to about 50 deaths in the UK and at least one in the US.

"It's really not plant food and the packages are clearly marked not for human consumption," North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Chief Toxicologist Dr. Ruth Winecker said. "They are either taking it as a tablet orally or it comes as a powder and they're snorting it."

The common street names for the Mephedrone include drone, meow-meow, bubbles, and bounce.

Additional information about the substance may be found at: http://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/drugs_concern/mephedrone.htm.

Dr. Winecker is working the case to determine whether Mephedrone was the exact cause of death. She says we could learn as early as next week.

According to Ausbon's parents, the guys were just two friends who were hanging out and made a mistake.

They say they hadn't planned on speaking publicly about their son's death, until they realized he died from taking Mephedrone.

"It could happen to anybody and we want people to be aware," Ausbon's mother Sherri Ausbon said.

"You say it always happens to somebody else, now we're somebody else," added Ausbon's father Doug Ausbon. "And somebody else could be anybody."

He says he feels certain his 21-year-old son and his friend were probably simply trying to celebrate him leaving for the Army.

Doug Ausbon says he believes the young men may have been lulled into a false sense of security using a substance that is not illegal, available online and marketed as plant food or bath salts.

"It's a new thing, what we're understanding it's legal," he said. "You can get it over the internet and you think it's okay, but it's not. It has, obviously, some pretty permanent consequences."

"I'm sure it was a false sense of security ... that it is was okay otherwise," Sherri Ausbon said.

"He wouldn't have done it," Doug Ausbon added. "He took care of himself. He was health nut."

According to Ausborn's obituary, he graduated from Apex High School in 2007 and was a student at NC State University majoring in accounting.

Tigner also graduated from Apex High and attended Gardner-Webb University. He had recently enlisted in the United States Army and was to report for duty on October 4.

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