New drug ‘Smiles’ linked to overdoses
Published: Monday, November 19, 2012
Updated: Monday, April 22, 2013 19:04
Contrary to what its street name suggests, the synthetic drug “Smiles,” formally known as 2C-I, has been linked to an increasing number of overdoses across the country.
A potent psychedelic drug first synthesized in a laboratory by American pharmacologist Alexander Shulgin, “Smiles,” causes vivid hallucinations and feelings of giddiness similar to those induced by LSD and MDMA, which is a component in ecstasy.
Wellspring substance abuse counselor Jessica Estok said one of the riskiest aspects associated with taking a drug like “Smiles” is that the effects can be different every time a user takes it.
“Even when the same person takes the same exact dosage of the drug a second time the outcome is unpredictable and changes the dangers that go along with it,” Estok said. “A lot is unknown about synthetic drugs.”
Undesirable side effects include paranoia, seizures and violent behavior. According to Estok, 2C-I users may suffer from high blood pressure and high body temperatures after taking the drug, although Estok said the long-term effects have not been researched yet because the drug is so new.
“Smiles,” which is sold in powder, pill and liquid form, has been connected to the deaths of two North Dakota teenagers and may have been involved in the alleged murder-suicide by “Sons of Anarchy” star Johnny Lewis in September.
Douglass Taber, a biochemistry professor and drug synthesis expert, said users under the influence of “Smiles” behave abnormally due to their altered state of consciousness.
“When you are in the middle of a hallucination it’s real to you and you act on it,” Taber said. “That’s why people do strange things because they are reacting to the reality they feel inside themselves.”
Estok said that there have been no locally reported cases of “Smiles” locally, but the drug is on the rise in the tri-state area. The Drug Enforcement Administration labeled 2C-I as a “Schedule 1” drug, he said. Drugs listed in that category have the highest potential for addiction without any medical benefits.
Newark police spokesman MCpl. Gerald Bryda said Newark officers deal with at least a dozen drug cases each week, but the department has not noticed an increase in synthetic drug use across campus.
“There’s nothing that would spark a major concern for us,” Bryda said.
While “Smiles” is currently not an issue in the Newark area, Bryda said the department has made arrests for K-2, a type of synthetic marijuana, and bath salt use. Distributing or manufacturing a synthetic drug like “Smiles” is considered a Class E felony that usually results in minimal jail time, he said.
Taber said synthetic drugs are becoming increasingly popular because the ingredients and information necessary to make them is very accessible to amateurs. The structure of the drug is on the Internet, so anyone could make the compound. Some cold medicines now require a prescription because they can easily be turned into a designer drug, he said.
Wellspring substance abuse counselor Amy Richardson stated in an email message that synthetic drugs are popular with young adults because many of them do not show up on standard drug screens. Richardson said more research needs to be conducted in order to gain a full understanding of drugs like “Smiles.”