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Designer Drug Kills in AZ

It was back in January when “N-bomb” first made the news in Arizona. Noah Wadsworth died after using the synthetic drug – reportedly, two drops in his nose. The drug is either taken on blotter paper, like LSD, or snorted. The story was reported in May on FOX News 10.

The drug has now been reported elsewhere and may become an emerging experimental substance among college students. The more common abbreviation is NBOMe. Police are now reporting that besides hallucinations, it also causes combative behavior.

NBOMe stands for 2-(4-iodo-2,5-dimethoxyphenyl -N-[(2-methoxyphenyl)methyl]ethanamine. It was first discovered in 2003 and investigated as a compound for use in radio-labeling. However, when the hallucinogenic properties of the chemical became known, it quickly moved into the illegal market. NBOMe has been placed on temporary status as a schedule I drug (similar to LSD) by the DEA and is illegal across the United States.

The compound’s use as a tag in PET scans may be related to its hallucinogenic properties. It binds strongly to receptors in the brain thought to be involved in schizophrenia and depression – the 5-HT2a receptor subtype. The link with mental illness would offer a clue to why the drug makes people hallucinate and become violent.

Reporting out of Georgia shows the drug has been seen there as well. According to reporting from Atlanta’s WSB TV, a Georgia DEA spokesman said, “All it takes is one little slip up, one little dip too much, and someone could overdose and die from it.”

In what is becoming more common among young people, the drug isn’t necessarily being smuggled into our state. Users can find it online and simply have it shipped. It can’t be easily detected by smell or taste, the liquid is absorbed into paper or sold as a powder or liquid.

It remains to be seen whether the attraction for users will overcome the fear of overdose. Generally, hallucinogens have a very safe dosage profile, and even LSD doesn’t have a known deadly dose. The problem may be more about ease of access than about choosing which drug to try. A younger generation, largely removed from the “drug scene” may decide to try whatever they can buy, using the Internet as a go-between.


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