When 2C-E first appeared in the United States as a club drug in the mid-1980s, little was known about the hallucinogen. Then young people began overdosing on it.
In 2011, at least 11 partygoers in Minnesota became ill after using 2C-E, and one 19-year-old man died. The same year in Oklahoma, a young woman died and seven others were hospitalized after using the drug at a party. Someone had reportedly purchased the drug on the internet.
In 2012, federal lawmakers passed a law criminalizing 2C-E and eight other synthetic hallucinogens in the 2C family.
Drugs in the 2C family are often referred to as designer drugs because they’re made in clandestine labs. The effects can vary depending on the dose taken and other factors. A person may experience stimulating effects, hallucinogenic effects or a combination of the two.
It’s unclear whether 2C drugs are addictive, but preliminary research suggests the substances are unlikely to cause addiction or physical dependence. Further research is needed before scientists can reach a definitive answer.
Also known as europa, aquarust and hummingbird, 2C-E is a club drug that produces effects similar to those of ecstasy and LSD. The drug is sold online, at music festivals and in nightclubs. It is used mostly by young adults, according to anecdotal reports.
2CE was first discovered decades ago by Alexander Shulgin, a San Francisco chemist and psychopharmacologist who synthesized hundreds of psychoactive compounds that he personally tested on himself.
Though Shulgin’s work on MDMA made him famous, the so-called godfather of ecstasy wrote about 2C-E in a controversial 1991 book called “PiHKAL: A Chemical Love Story.”
In his book, Shulgin described the intense hallucinations that he and his partner experienced while using 2C-E. Live scenes outside his window suddenly resembled Johannes Vermeer paintings, while an actual painting on his wall appeared to come to life. Higher doses of the drug left him sweaty and anxious. He heard ominous voices in his head.
Shulgin’s unorthodox work and writings — and his advocacy of medicinal MDMA use — alarmed the Drug Enforcement Administration, which in 1993 stripped him of the license that allowed him to do his research.
Other drugs in the 2C family include 2C-B, 2C-I and 2C-T-7. Common nicknames for 2C-T-7 include blue mystic, T7, beautiful, tripstay and tweety-bird mescaline. The drug 2C-B is also known as nexus, 2’s, toonies, bromo, spectrum and venus.
Drugs in the 2C class are Schedule I controlled substances, meaning they have no legitimate medical use and a high potential for abuse.
The use of 2C drugs, also known as 2C-phenethylamines, is relatively uncommon compared to other drugs. According to a 2012 special report from the DEA, 580 reports of 2C drugs were submitted to state and local laboratories for forensic testing between January 2006 and December 2010.
Another chemically similar designer drug is 25I-NBOMe. The extremely potent hallucinogen — known by the street names N-bomb, smiles, 25I, 25C and 25B — comes as a powder and a liquid. Like LSD, it is sometimes sold on blotter paper.
The illegal drug is sometimes passed off as LSD with fatal consequences. In 2014, a Minnesota honors student who thought she was taking LSD died from a 25I-NBOMe overdose in her parent’s home. The 17-year-old’s death underscored how easily teens can get designer drugs and other dangerous substances.
At low doses, 2C-E and other drugs in the 2C family have stimulant effects, but most people use the drugs for their hallucinogenic properties.
The high from 2C drugs is said to intensify emotion, enhance the senses and make people feel more in tune with their surroundings. Visual and auditory hallucinations are common.
Taking 2C drugs while listening to music can cause distortions of colors, patterns and movements. This may explain why the drugs are popular among young people who frequent music festivals and the club scene.
In the 1980s and 1990s, before they were made illegal, 2C drugs were sometimes sold at adult bookstores and nightclubs as sexual enhancement products.
Drugs in the 2C family usually come in the form of capsules or tablets that are swallowed or a powder form that is snorted. They may also come in liquid form.
Typical doses of 2C drugs usually range from 10 to 30 milligrams. The effects of 2C-E typically last for eight to 12 hours, but some 2C drugs can last for 24 hours or longer. Snorting the drugs causes a more rapid onset of effects than swallowing them does.
Occasionally, people mix 2C drugs with other hallucinogens. The combination of 2C-B and LSD is known as a banana split, while mixing 2C-B and MDMA is called a party pack.
Some people mistakenly take 2C drugs thinking they are using molly, or ecstasy. Dealers may not even know what they are peddling.
Drugs in the 2C family can have different effects depending on how much of the drug is consumed.
The effects of 2C drugs may include:
In low doses, 2C-E can act as a stimulant, causing feelings of alertness and intensifying a person’s senses. In higher doses, usually greater than 10 milligrams, the drug has significant hallucinogenic effects.
The hallucinogenic effects of 2C-E are similar to an acid trip. The drug may cause an individual’s surroundings to seem distorted, or the person may see or hear things that don’t exist. The drug can also cause sexual arousal and hypersensitivity.
Because 2C-E and other 2C drugs are also central nervous system stimulants, they can cause an array of unpleasant and potentially life-threatening health effects.
According to a 2013 report in the Journal of Medical Toxicology, at least five deaths in the medical literature have been attributed to 2C drugs.
Most of the patients who died exhibited signs of excited delirium, which is characterized by agitation, hyperactivity and aggression. These effects were followed by a rise in body temperature, cardiac arrest and sudden death.
Unlike a heroin overdose, which can be reversed with a medication called naloxone, there is no antidote for a 2C-E overdose.
Treatment for 2C drug intoxication is usually supportive and aimed at lowering body temperature and preventing seizures.
Patients are placed in a calm and quiet environment and monitored closely. In severe cases, patients are sedated and placed on a breathing machine.
If you or someone you know has ingested a 2C drug and is experiencing any distressing symptoms, you should seek immediate medical attention.
While 2C drugs aren’t believed to be addictive, hallucinogen abuse is a serious problem that may require professional treatment. In 2015, nearly 4,000 Americans received treatment for hallucinogen abuse, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
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