Deaths Linked to Botched Batch of Designer Mescaline

By Tony O'Neill 05/19/11

2C-E, a research hallucinogenic best left to the professionals, may have killed two people in Oklahoma.

2C-E powder.
Photo via erowid

A word of warning about a tainted batch of the mescaline-like research chemical called 2C-E: So far 19 people have been hospitalized in Minneapolis and Oklahoma, and two people died last week after allegedly ingesting the drug. According to police, the 2C-E linked to the deaths of Stacy Jewel (22) and Andrew Akerman (22) in Oklahoma originated from the now defunct site. Chemicology was a U.S.-based vendor that sold 2C-E and a related hallucinogenic drug, 2C-I, although the chemicals themselves originated in China.  There is no word yet on whether the site was taken down voluntarily or by authorities. The 2C-E linked to the Minneapolis hospitalizations was purchased directly from a Chinese vendor, although the name of the vendor has not been revealed.

2C-E is a chemical that originated from the cookbook of controversial drug researcher Alexander Shulgin. It was classed as one of the “magical half-dozen” in his 1991 book PiHKAL (Phenethylamines I have known and loved). "At 10 milligrams there have been some pretty rich experiences,” Shulgin reported, “and yet I have had the report from one young lady of a 30-milligram trial that was very frightening. My first experience with 2C-E was really profound, and it is the substance of a chapter within the story. Several people have said, about 2C-E, ‘I don't think I like it, since it isn't that much fun. But I intend to explore it again.’ There is something here that will reward the experimenter. Someday, the full character of 2C-E will be understood, but for the moment, let it rest as being a difficult and worthwhile material. A very much worth-while material."
All in all, it doesn’t sound like the best bet for a recreational Saturday night at the dance club. But 2C-E has been available for over 20 years, without major problems, until the incidents in the U.S. This has led many to suspect that a tainted batch of the chemical is responsible for the recent deaths and injuries. One theory now emerging is that the poisonings were caused by a batch of mislabeled Bromo-DragonFLY--an extremely powerful hallucinogenic with a high potential for toxicity in humans. Bromo-DragonFLY made the news in 2009 when a batch was mistakenly sold as the chemical 2C-B-FLY, a related legal hallucinogenic that is 20 times less potent. This mistake led to a rash of poisonings and several deaths. It’s easy to see how confusing all of this can be, especially to young drug users with no background in chemistry. Drug blogs and mailing lists have been alerting their members to the potential dangers of ingesting this stuff, and people are being urged to avoid 2C-E altogether, just to be safe. It seems that these deaths are the grim result of the Wild West mentality among drug vendors scrabbling to stay one step ahead of the drug laws. It’s a timely reminder that as long as we pursue a policy of criminalization and repression, drug users will continually be offered riskier and riskier ways of getting high.

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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.