Health officials not happy about designer drug 'smiles'

Published: Wednesday, Sept. 26 2012 10:43 a.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — It has the street name of "smiles," but the up-and-coming drug can have deadly consequences.

The drug 2C-I is commonly sold in powder form or as a pill.

"It's like the drug du jour," said Patrick Fleming with the Salt Lake County Division of Behavioral Health Services. "Whatever is out there in the market, people will use."

Over the summer, two teens in Grand Forks, N.D., died after using 2C-I. There are other reports of overdoses in the Midwest. Utah hasn't seen any reports of deaths or injury due to the drug, but Fleming said it's only a matter of time.

"I bet it's already here," he said. "I mean, this is a major crossroads, and so it's already probably here. We just haven't seen it yet."

The drug can make the heart race and give a person a lot of energy. It can also impact the part of the brain in charge of perception, so it distorts vision and hearing.

A man took the drug and posted his experience on YouTube.

"At the moment, I am completely and fully submerged, if you can't tell by my eyes, in a psychedelic world known as 2C-I," he says in the video. "I could just be trippin' right now, man.”

Fleming said the trouble is when someone takes larger quantities, then they need to get the impact of the drug. 

"They may have some secondary type of characteristic like not be able to perceive if there's a door open or if the wall is there or, heaven forbid, if they try to drive a car or something like that," he said. "It's the secondary interactions of the drug and the repercussions from that that cause the injury and the death in these kinds of things."

Synthetic drugs have been around for decades. Recently, people have been using Spice and bath salts to get high. The trouble with synthetic drugs is anybody who has a college degree in chemistry can go out and find the chemical makeup of the drug on the Internet and make it themselves, Fleming said.

In July, the federal government classified 2C-I as a Schedule 1 controlled substance, meaning it's illegal to manufacture or distribute the drug without the proper licensing.

The drug is fairly cheap and easy to make, Fleming said. It's also very strong.

Contributing:  Viviane Vo-Duc

E-mail: syi@ksl.com

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