Updated on 14 May 2011: Fox 23 news reports that now Andrew Ackerman, one of the people who took 2C-E at the May 7th party, has also died. (This report stands in contrast to the investigation about Walls, mentioned below, for whom the connection is murky at best based on the news reports).
In Konowa, Oklahoma, a town with about 1,500 residents, a batch of a “designer drug” is being blamed for one or more deaths following a party this past Saturday. Twenty-year-old Cody Weddle was arraigned on charges of giving Anastasia Marie Jewell, a resident of nearby Ada, Oklahoma, the drug 2C-E.
Jewell reportedly died after taking the drug at a party, though it will take weeks to get tox reports back and definitively determine her cause of death.
In the meantime, Weddel has been charged anyway, even though 2C-E isn’t illegal — or, well…it’s sort of illegal. While 2C-E is unscheduled in the U.S. (that means it’s not illegal, per se), it can be prosecuted under the Federal Analog Act — similar to its status in the U.K.
Regardless, what was unclear is whether the overdoses stemmed from a bad batch corrupted in the manufacturing process, a dosing problem, or a toxicity inherent to the drug. Other news reports about 2C-E seem to throw around the terms “overdose” and “toxicity” like they don’t mean anything — when in fact they mean fairly specific things. Deaths from a toxicity innate to 2C-E seem unlikely, or at least under-documented, but then again, 2C-E is an uncommon drug, so one wouldn’t expect to see toxic doses with great frequency. Common drug lore around substances like GHB hold that “the effective dose is close to the toxic dose,” which turns out to be (mostly) untrue, and cases of GHB overdose appear to stem from other intoxicants commonly taken with it.
The Oklahoman makes it sound like the Weddle case is a misjudgement or misunderstanding of the effective 2C-E dose, resulting in an OD: “Weddle, Jewell and Akerman diluted the 2C-E with water at Jewell’s residence on Friday…The solution was supposed to be further diluted before it was sold, Weddle told investigators.”
However, this isn’t the first time this year a Midwestern batch of 2C-E has (maybe) killed someone. The drug has been “flooding” North from Louisiana and Texas, supposedly. In March, the Star-Tribune indulged in vaguely revolting tragedy tourism when it described, in Requiem-For-A-Dream-a-Licious detail, the case of Timothy Lamere of Blaine, Minnesota, who supplied friends with the drug, resulting (apparently) in the death from cardiac arrest of one young man, and one other woman being in critical condition, plus 9 other hospitalizations (including Lamere):
Timothy Lamere took the bottle out of his pocket and poured the grayish powder on the living room table of the Blaine house, cutting it into lines that he and Trevor Robinson quickly inhaled, according to murder charges filed Monday against Lamere in Anoka County.
Soon after snorting the synthetic drug known as 2C-E at a party early Thursday, Robinson, 19, started to yell and punch walls. Then he stopped breathing, dying at a hospital hours later. Ten other partygoers overdosed and needed hospitalization, including Lamere, 21, who was found by police in a snowbank.
On Monday, Lamere was charged with felony third-degree murder for unintentionally causing Robinson’s death by giving away or distributing 2C-E, a controlled substance. Robinson died of cardiac arrest attributed to toxicity associated with the presence of drugs and no natural disease explained the death, according to the charges.
The Star-Tribune story reports that 2C-E is “a controlled substance.” I could not verify that’s true in Minnesota, unless you’re going to call it that because it’s prosecutable under the Federal Analog Act (which is really, really fudging). More specifically, here’s what it said about 2C-E’s legality in Minnesota, and how Lamere got it:
According to both the state’s Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and the federal Drug Enforcement Administration, the drug 2C-E is within the definition of a Schedule I Control Substance, which means it’s illegal, the document said….Police said they believe Lamere purchased the drug via the Internet, where it is widely available.
While the Star-Tribune didn’t specify a site, a story in The Oklahoman said that in the Konawa case, investigators believed that Weddle had purchased the drug online, at Chemicology.net:
A notice posted on its website Tuesday said the business would be closed….“Due to customer abuse and moral obligation, chemicology.net will be closing,” the announcement states. “Once our stock is depleted, we no longer intend to resupply.”
…but when I checked, Chemicology wasn’t just “closing,” it was closed; I got an error message from the site, and there was no explanation. As far as I can tell, there’s been no police bust of Chemicology has been reported so far, but it’s guh-GONE.
Also, speaking of whether this stuff is illegal or not, Oklahoma City’s KOCO reported just the opposite of the Star-Tribune‘s Minnesota-flavored answer to that question, quoting Scott Schaeffer of the Oklahoma Poison Control Center:
Schaeffer said that because substances like 2C-E are not illegal, a lot of people think they are getting around the law when they buy them and then use them in ways similar to known illegal drugs.
He said he believes the Internet plays a large role in the popularity of designer drugs but also makes it impossible to know exactly what the user is getting.
“There’s no telling actually where these drugs are coming from,” Schaffer said. “They might be from a chemical supply house, or they might be from somebody who has put it together in their bathroom or kitchen.”
While some of the products online may actually be created by legitimate chemists for legitimate purposes, most are really just meant to mimic the effects of illegal drugs, experts said.
The Minnesota case got Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar “working on a [Federal] bill to ban 2C-E, like synthetic marijuana, to ensure it stays off the market,” said the Star-Tribune. Meanwhile, Missouri lawmakers are already working on one, and Louisiana’s considering it.
Okay, so…remember that, you know, Bath Salts Panic from a few months ago? This is a much better example of the news treating a public health crisis like it’s a public health crisis. The press is still wiggin’; in fact they’re wiggin’ out. They get freakin’ all up in our shit, and shit. But this is a real case of a real drug that really killed someone (maybe), with documented charges filed by the cops, not random spooky-ooky stories about “teens” getting “high” for “$40 a spoonful.”
However, the media’s still blowing it, and blowing it hard. You see, today’s Oklahoman story tells us this:
Authorities are awaiting a medical examiner’s report to determine whether the unexplained death of a 29-year-old man may be linked to the same “designer drug” that killed one person and sickened several others at a party.
Jeffery Walls, a resident of Roff, was found dead in that small southern Oklahoma town Saturday, the same day people were overcome by the drug 2C-E at a party in Konawa, about 30 miles to the north.
There were no indications that Walls was at the party, said Pontotoc County District Attorney Chris Ross. Tests will determine whether drugs were in his system. Walls had a criminal record that included a charge of possession of a controlled substance.
Sadly, I’m left trying to figure out WTF the connection is between Walls and the drug, since this was an unexplained death 30 miles away. Did he, like…know them?” Awaiting a medical examiner’s report” is, you know…not that convincing an explanation for why they’re even wondering. The way the Oklahoman story is worded leads one to believe that the paragraph about Weddle’s sale of the drug follows logically from the section about Walls. It doesn’t. This story indicates no connection whatsoever, other than that there is one.
Even with that said, the timber of these reports does not yet meet my personal evaluation of a moral panic — even if legislators are getting involved. That is usually a sign that public health issues are turning into freakouts…but so far, even the tragedy tourism of the Star-Tribune has been notably restrained, at least in comparison.
But the case of Walls does seem to indicate a tendency to connect seemingly unconnected deaths without feeling the obligation to explain why they’re “maybe” connected…and that’s indicative of oncoming hysteria. In the case of 2C-E, the press managed to actually document people being harmed, before they panicked. As a news reader, I always appreciate knowing why I’m supposed to freak out. When it comes to bath salts, they handed me a bunch of warmed-over garbage and started waving their hands. The mainstream media can be kind of funny that way.
The drug 2C-E, according to Erowid.org, is sometimes called “Europa,” but no one I talked to has ever heard of it. With a chemical name of 2,5-dimethoxy-4-ethylphenethylamine, it is a phenethylamine first synthesized by 85-year old UC Berkeley Biochemistry PhD and Contra Costa County resident Alexander Shulgin, a former Dow chemist who popularized MDMA (ecstasy) and has been a longtime proponent of psychedelic use. (The 85-year-old Shulgin suffered a stroke last November and has been incommunicado publicly since then).
Part of the 2C family of psychedelics, 2C-E is described by Shulgin as one of his “magical half-dozen” of psychedelics. He and his wife Ann describe experiences with it here, and relate both positive stories and some frightening ones. Shulging rates 2C-E’s psychedelic effects at a 10mg dose as “plus 3″ or “+++” — which is described as:
Not only are the chronology and the nature of a drug’s action quite clear, but ignoring its action is no longer an option. The subject is totally engaged in the experience, for better or worse.
In other words, at 10mg, by Shulgin’s account, there’s no saying “I think I feel something,” or asking “Am I tripping?” There’s only the proclamation, “I’m tripping BALLS.”
One Erowid user describes an experience with 2C-E as assisting the “shamanic pagan path,” while another described the experience as “Glorious Pain, Beauty and Joy.” Another called their account “Paranoid Schizophrenia,” so…yeah, sounds like oodles of fun.