Club Drug "2CB" Sparks Scare Stories

By Tony O'Neill 01/28/13

The synthetic drug turns users into "raging monsters," screams The Daily Mail. Really?

Is 2CB destroying Britain's youth?
Photo via

Britain’s Daily Mail is no stranger to selling papers off the back of drug scares—especially in 2012, a year which brought intoxicants like bath salts, “meow meow” and “K-2” to prominence. And when they ran out synthetic drugs, there was always the old fallback of “cannabis makes kids psychotic." Now the paper has surpassed itself with a jaw-dropping piece about the club drug 2CB, entitled: “The ecstasy recipe book that's killing young people like Charlotte—and turning others into raging monsters!” The article is something of a Frankenstein’s monster, stitched together from bits of unrelated news. It mixes some recent deaths from contaminated ecstasy, some anecdotes of people acting "like they are possessed” on 2CB and some late-off-the-mark hysteria about the chemical research of one Dr. Alexander Shulgin to create a frothy brew of fear mongering. You might know Dr. Shulgin as the author of PiHKAL: A Chemical Love Story. This 1991 memoir is blamed by the article for a “rise in chemists experimenting with the make-up of drugs.”

The paper quotes “several middle-class youngsters” with first-hand experience of 2-CB. They uniformly tell tales of woe and debauchery: “A couple of people who took 2CB went into the town center where they tried to smash shop windows and start a fight with some other young people,” says one. “Their behavior was absolutely out of character. People become incredibly aggressive on the drug.”

One British 2CB user tells The Fix that the drug isn’t new, and has been common on the club scene since the early 2000s. “I first took it back in ’02,” he tells us. “At the time you couldn’t get a decent E in London for love nor money, but 2CB was doing the rounds instead. It was ok. A little trippier than E and it didn’t give you that same warm, fuzzy, loved-up vibe. It certainly wasn’t the scary super-drug that the article makes out. But it was a good enough stand-in until decent-quality MDMA started showing up again.”

For all its sensationalism, the Mail article does touch on some important issues. Firstly, that young people are dying because of contaminated ecstasy. Five recent deaths in the UK have been linked to tainted pills that apparently contain a lethal dose of a chemical called PMA. Harry Shapiro, director of communications for the charity DrugScope, feels it is “likely [that] PMA finds its way into tablets through poor chemistry.” He also points out that as long as the pills remain illegal, there can be no quality control on them. Interestingly, the article inadvertently makes a case for legalization and regulation when it says, “Shulgin, who has somehow made it to the age of 87, is 'credited' with rediscovering ecstasy (MDMA).” Perhaps one reason that Shulgin has "somehow" reached his grand old age is that—unlike most users of illegal drugs—he was able to know exactly what he was taking. 

Please read our comment policy. - The Fix
Tony O'Neill_0.jpg

Tony O'Neill, a regular contributor to The Fix, is the author of several novels, including Digging the VeinDown and Out on Murder Mile and Sick City. He also co-authored the New York Times bestseller Hero of the Underground (with Jason Peter) and the Los Angeles Times bestseller Neon Angel (with Cherie Currie). He lives in New York with his wife and daughter. You can follow Tony on Twitter.