‘Legal acid’ gains popularity

By Emily Fasold

When you picture a drug deal, you may imagine frantically looking out for the cops and shady parking lot exchanges and dark alley drop-offs. However, thanks to medical chemistry, the landscape of drug dealing is changing. Now a drug user’s next high is only a click away.

Synthetic drugs like 2C-E, a substance that mimics the effects of LSD, are created by medical chemists for pharmacological research purposes and sold legally online. However, research scientists are not the only ones getting their hands on 2C-E. Many people are buying it to get high, which experts think can have negative health consequences, including sweating, paranoia, nausea, vomiting and, in extreme cases,death.

“Not all medical chemists are in academia,” said Dr. William Fantegrossi, a drug researcher at the University of Arkansas. “Some have discovered that there is easy money to be made in the illicit market.”

2C-E has received particular media attention following the death of a Minnesota teen last March. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported that the teen ingested large quantities of the drug and alcohol the night he died. According to the report, officials suspect that the combination killed him.

However, not all users report having a negative experience with the drug. Triton College student Kevin Salinas, 20, described his trip on 2C-E as a spiritual and overall positive out-of-body experience. He said after taking it several times, he never experienced any negative side effects.

“[The 2C-E] high is an interesting feeling,” Salinas said. “It feels very euphoric, like this collective energy is coming to the center

of you.”

Salinas said drugs like 2C-E inspired him so much that he is now planning to become a medical chemist. In the future, he plans to create and research new chemicals that could be used to cure diseases like cancer.

Chemist Alexander Shulgin first developed 2C-E for research purposes in the late 1970s and early 1980s, Fantegrossi said. However, some chemists today are skeptical about the drug’s actual research value.

Robert Adams, vice president of Business Development at Advance Research Chemicals, a chemical distribution company in Catoosa, Okla., said he does not think the drug has any scientific value.

“I don’t know what purpose it would serve because it seems very specific,” Adams said. “I don’t think there was any legitimate research purpose for what [Shulgin] was trying to do when he created it.”

Grace Division Discovery Sciences, a Deerfield, Ill., chemical distribution company that sells 2C-E online, declined

to comment.

Fantegrossi said that 2C-E is not yet listed under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. This makes it more difficult to regulate than its cousin 2C-B, another substance developed by Shulgin that is also similar to acid. 2C-E is only covered under the Controlled Substance Analogue Act of 1986, meaning that no special license is required to purchase the drug, although selling it to the public and ingesting it are not technically allowed. Fantegrossi said he strongly believes it is only a matter of time before 2C-E is also placed under the act, which would require him to add it to his drug license to continue doing research on it.

“People like to take drugs and will pay good money for the opportunity to do so,” he said. “And [these drugs are difficult to regulate] because chemists are generally a lot smarter than lawmakers.”