This week an article ran in the UK newspaper The Guardian discussing the demise of ecstasy and the dawn of a new era of designer drugs. The majority of these new drugs are powerful synthetic psychedelics from the same chemical families as LSD, magic mushrooms and mescaline. They are too new to have street names such as ecstasy or fantasy; instead their lengthy chemical names are shortened to abbreviations such as 2C-I, 4-HO-DiPT, and 5-Meo-DMT. Unlike ecstasy, methamphetamine or other synthetic recreational drugs, the new compounds are not made in illicit factories or backroom kitchen laboratories. Instead, research chemicals, as they are known, are synthesized by commercial labs, often based in the US, which openly sell their products on the internet.

Of all of these the one that is attracting the most attention is 2C-I, described as the most likely candidate for the coveted title the next ecstasy.

2C-I was discovered by US pharmacologist Dr Alexander Shulgin, who first popularised MDMA and synthesized over 200 other drugs, all of which he tested on himself. After swallowing 15mg of the drug Shulgin described the effect of 2C-I as follows: Most notable are the visuals, very colourful and active. Much more balanced emotional character, but still no feeling of insight, revelation, or progress toward the true meaning of the universe. After 16mg he noted an immediate alert within minutes and some hallucinogenic activity. He followed this with the comment, My conversations were extremely clear and insightful, the degree of honesty was incredible.

There are very few other documented reports on the effect of the drug although the popular UK magazine Mixmag has run a number of stories on the drug recently with the majority of users describing it as an intense and often scary experience. Other reports compare 2C-I to 2C-B (or nexus, as it is more commonly known) due to an apparent similarity in their effects, although some users describe 2C-I as being deeper, more purely psychedelic and less sensory and in some cases less intense. Hallucinogenic and visual responses have been reported in addition to empathic effects described as being similar to those of MDMA.

Unlike the other newer chemicals available, 2C-I is already being sold in clubs in pill form across the UK and Europe.

Up to now the use of 2C-I appeared to be limited to a part of a very small group of people with pseudo-scientific interest in experimenting with hallucinogenic substances, often referred to as psychonauts. However, in recent months the situation seems to have changed now that the drug has been found in a number of pill seizures. Although the majority of our ecstasy pills are now locally made, some of them still originate from Europe. It is only a matter of time before we see 2C-I in seizure data.

Remember: if you do not want any negative consequences, do not use the drug, and no matter how many times you have used a substance, never be blas?

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