It’s not often that Sherwood, Oregon – a small, quiet suburb located southwest of Portland – makes the front page news – especially for stories related to drugs. But it did the first weekend of February 2014, when two teenage girls ended up in the hospital after using a dangerous and relatively new designer drug. The drug – officially known as 25i-NBOMe – is most commonly referred to as simply “25I” or “N-Bomb”. “Smiles” is another nickname for N-Bomb and other closely related substances.
Fortunately for the Oregon teens, an off-duty deputy sheriff spotted them on the roadside as one of the girls was having a seizure. He stopped and called an ambulance, only to have the other girl soon start seizing as well. These girls survived, but several other teens experimenting with the deadly LSD-like drug haven’t been as lucky. It’s been estimated that at least 19 deaths in the past couple of years are linked to the drug, including:
- June 2012 – The death of North Dakota teen Christian Bjerk, who was found lying dead on the ground after a fatal reaction to 25I.
- June 2012 – The death of 17-year-old Elijah Stai, who stopped breathing and ended up on life support after ingesting 25I mixed with chocolate. The Minnesota teen died 3 days later, when his parents made the gut-wrenching decision to take him off life support.
- October 2012 – The death of a 21-year-old Arkansas male, who reportedly used N-Bomb intranasally.
- January 2013 – The death of Noah Carrasco, an 18-year-old Scottsdale, Arizona high school student. He quickly lost consciousness after taking the deadly drug via nose drops that he thought contained LSD.
- April 2013 – The death of an 18-year-old student attending Arizona State University, believed to be caused by the designer drug N-Bomb.
- June 2013 – The death of 17-year-old Henry Kwan of Sydney, Australia, who threw himself out of a window and fell to his death after taking N-Bomb
- September 2013 – The death of a 17-year-old high school student in Pennsylvania. An overdose of the drug caused him to stop breathing, reportedly resulting in his death
- February 2014 – The death of Jake Harris, a 21-year-old U.K. lifeguard and father-to-be. Harris reportedly stabbed himself in the neck multiple times with broken glass after taking the drug.
Needless to say, the drug has the authorities – as well as many parents – very concerned. One of the biggest problems is that the drug is often sold as LSD. Although it’s similar to LSD in many ways, its effects can be significantly more dangerous.
Unfortunately, designer drugs often slip through the cracks in terms of drug enforcement, making them legal until deemed otherwise by the authorities. With regards to N-Bomb, which had previously been legal, the fatalities linked to its use resulted in the Drug Enforcement Administration classifying it as a Schedule I controlled substance in October 2013. The authorities have not been lenient with those individuals who either sold or supplied the drug to those who have suffered or died from its effects.
In the case of the two girls from Oregon, an adolescent boy was taken into custody for allegedly supplying them with the drug. A total of 15 individuals have been charged in connection to the deaths of Elijah Stai and Christian Bjerk, a law-enforcement endeavor that’s been aptly dubbed “Operation Stolen Youth”. Adam Budge, the 18 year-old friend who gave the drug to Stai, is facing murder charges for his death. Charles Carlton, a 29-year-old man from Katy, Texas, pleaded guilty to numerous charges related to the two teens’ deaths, including possession with intent to distribute. He had sold the deadly drugs via his online business, Motion Resources.
N-Bomb is a hallucinogenic designer drug that is often likened to LSD, although some say that it’s up to 25 times more potent. Designer drugs are synthetically produced by altering the chemical structure of existing drugs, like cocaine or marijuana. They are meant to be used recreationally, and mimic the effects of the other drugs. N-Bomb is actually derived from phenethylamine, commonly known as mescaline. Mescaline is a natural substance found in the peyote cactus. Mescaline’s use as a recreational drug became illegal in the U.S. in 1970, due to its psychedelic properties.
N-Bomb and other hallucinogens are known for causing powerfully altered perceptions, including brightly colored and widely distorted visual images. Some users of the drug have described its effects as “Nirvana” and “ecstasy”, reporting “trips” very similar to those experienced with LSD. As is typically the case with psychedelics, the unpredictable effects of N-Bomb have varied widely from one individual to the next.
Pleasurable effects of N-Bomb may include:
- Bright moving colors and other vivid visual hallucinations
- Spiritual “awakening”
- A sense of profoundness
- Positive mood
- Enhanced awareness
- Enhanced creativity
- Loving feelings
- Sexual sensations and enhanced desire
Side effects of N-Bomb may include:
- Altered state of consciousness
- Erratic behavior
- Chills, flushing
- Severe double vision
- Teeth grinding, jaw clenching
- Dilated pupils
- Depressed mood
- Intense negative emotions
- Intense anxiety
- Muscle spasms and contractions
- Impaired communication
- Swelling of feet, hands, face
- Kidney damage / failure
- Heart failure
How it’s Used
N-Bomb or 25I is often sold on strips of blotter paper, which is one of the reasons users often erroneously assume it’s LSD. The strip of paper is placed under the tongue, which allows the drug to enter the bloodstream sublingually. N-Bomb is also available as a powder. Users can snort the powder like cocaine, smoke it, or mix it with a liquid and inject it like heroin. Some users combine it with water in a nasal spray bottle to administer via the nose. Vaporizing and then inhaling the drug is another method of administration used by some, but it makes controlling the dose very precarious.
When the drug is taken orally or sublingually, the effects generally last between 6 and 10 hours. Those who inhale or snort the drug will generally experience its effects for a shorter period, ranging from 4 to 6 hours. This can vary though, depending on the amount used. When the substance is vaporized and then inhaled, the effects may kick in much more quickly but not last as long.
A typical dose of N-Bomb is somewhere between 600 and 1200 micrograms. Because the doses are so tiny (1 gram is the equivalent of 1,000,000 micrograms), it’s often very difficult to measure a dose accurately. This is why users have a high risk of accidentally overdosing on the drug.
Like so many designer drugs – particularly newer ones – N-Bomb isn’t fully understood. It’s been on the street for less than 5 years, and it was discovered in a lab just 11 years ago. So the full and long-term effects are not yet known. What little information we do have is primarily from those who have had a bad reaction to the drug or died from it.
Also, like other designer drugs and street drugs in general, there’s no way of knowing exactly what you’re getting. It’s not at all uncommon for these substances to have other substances added in – making them even more dangerous than ever for users who don’t know what they’re getting. Dealers often sell them under false names, like LSD. After all, it’s a hallucinogenic drug with similar effects used in a similar manner. No big deal…to them.
If you’re the parent of a teen, it’s important to be aware of drugs in general, but especially designer drugs like N-Bomb. First, these drugs are more readily available than you might realize. Since new designer drugs are being created and coming available practically daily, they slip through the cracks legally (at least for a while) so they’re much easier for teens to obtain. Many are sold online or by friends or acquaintances.
Second, they’re appealing to many teens because they’re “exciting” and “cool”. They may rationalize that since it’s not a “real” drug, like cocaine or methamphetamine, it’s safe (or at least safer) to try. And of course, their peers will often try to convince them that these drugs are harmless fun. On top of that, teens tend to be reckless. They tend to still perceive themselves as invincible, and often don’t consider the potential long-term consequences of their behavior. Even when the risks are presented, teens often ignore them – much the same way they roll their eyes when reminded ad nauseam that drinking and driving is very dangerous or that wearing seatbelts saves lives.
Still, it’s vital to talk to your teen about N-Bomb and other designer drugs. Strive to maintain good communication with him or her, and make sure your teen knows (both by your words AND your actions) that you genuinely care and that your door is always open, so to speak.
If you do think your teen is using N-Bomb or any other drugs – including illegitimate prescription drugs, designer drugs, and regular street drugs – have a conversation as soon as possible. Don’t ignore it. Don’t minimize it. Don’t assume that experimenting with drugs is just a normal part of adolescence. Take it very seriously. Consider setting up an appointment for an evaluation with an addiction specialist to determine if drug rehab is necessary. Your teen may resent you, but a dead teen will never have the opportunity to appreciate how much you really do care.