The Dangerous Designer Drug "Smiles" Has Reached Connecticut's Streets

25-I's chemical makeup varies from batch to batch.

The designer drug 25-I falls into the same category as bath salts. Though the effects of the drugs vary greatly (bath salts is a stimulant, while 25-I is a hallucinogen), they are both man-made substances with questionable chemical makeups whose origins can be traced to China.

One Connecticut resident, Bill, said that he was sold 25-I as a hallucinogenic replacement for LSD or mushrooms, but that the drug was not as powerful or "fun" as LSD. He said he thought it was cheap and easy to get, but not as desirable as the older drug. He also mistakenly assumed it was legal.

LSD usually sells for around $10 a dose on the street, while you can purchase 10 milligrams of 25-1 for $18.89 on a site like biochemdistribution.co. With a threshold dose of 25-I being 50 micrograms, $18.89 buys the equivalent of 200 25-I doses.

The most troubling difference is 25-I's chemical toxicity. Unlike with LSD, it is possible to suffer a chemical overdose on 25-I.

Both traditional news sites and drug-focused message boards have information regarding 25-I, though the information might not always be reliable. It has been on the United States Internet market since at least early 2012 (and in Europe before that time), but there has been little research into the chemical and its effects.

Many online forums claim that the drug is safe, but Erowid.org includes multiple articles in its archives regarding the chemical toxicity of 25-I. Four of the articles directly link the use of 25-I to untimely death.

One article reads: "2C-I-NBOMe [25-I] is a very new substance, with little known about its pharmacological or behavioral risks. It is extremely difficult to determine [a median lethal dose] for a drug in humans. [Median lethal doses] are only ever experimentally determined in animals, and extrapolations from one species to another for lethal dose are notoriously unreliable. With a new drug like 2C-I-NBOMe, there isn't even animal data."

One of the cases archived on Erowid.org occurred in February 2012, when the Richmond Ambulance Authority reported to WWBT in Richmond, Va., that they had responded to two cases of 25-I overdoses. Both of these cases, as reported by WWBT, resulted in "bleeding in the brain after overdosing."

Another incident in East Grand Forks, MN, caused the death of 17-year-old Elijah Stai. The case was initially investigated by Lt. Rod Hajicek, of the East Grand Forks Police Department.

Lt. Hajicek said in a recent interview that the drug was ingested by Stai and his friends by placing the drug (which comes in white powder form) into melted chocolate. They then froze the chocolate and shared it.

"Within a couple of hours, Elijah Stai was dead," Lt. Hajicek said. "The official cause of death was massive cerebral edema possibly related to a chemical overdose." This was the same cause of death as reported in Richmond.

The Elijah Stai incident eventually sparked the investigation by Assistant U.S. Attorney Chris Myers in North Dakota, Lt. Hajicek said, which resulted in 19 arrests. The man responsible for distributing the chemicals, Andrew Spofford, is facing a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years in prison.

Those cases apparently haven't registered with users in Connecticut.

Another Connecticut student, Amy, said that she had taken 25-I once, and has taken LSD in the past. Her experience with 25-I was not like an LSD experience at all, and was instead "accompanied by my throwing up within an hour of taking it, and lots of nausea throughout the evening," she said.

Within the past year, college campuses in Connecticut have begun to experience a steady increase in use of 25-I as a replacement for LSD, according to students at schools in the state.

Despite widespread reports of the chemical's toxicity, drug dealers in Connecticut are certainly not warning their consumers about the possibility of overdosing on 25-I. The users interviewed for this article did not realize that the drug was toxic, or even illegal.

Amanda and Bill at first believed that 25-I was like acid, something that might lead to intense or overwhelming mental states, but that wouldn't result in death.

Amanda told the Advocate that the man who sold her a dose of 25-I gave no warning about the drug's overdose potential. Both Amanda and Bill said they were shocked to hear that 25-I could result in death.