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What are 2C Drugs?

An e-mail undergraduates received from Larry Moneta, vice president of student affairs, Jan. 21 mentioned that 2C-I and 2C-E, two types of designer psychedelic phenethylamines, had surfaced on campus. The e-mail described them as "club drugs." Although typical "party" or "club" drugs have been MDMA (ecstasy), ketamine and GHB, Tom Szigethy, associate dean and director of the Alcohol and Substance Abuse Prevention Center, said the characterization of 2C drugs as "club drugs" is due to their origin. They're part of a host of different drugs that emerged from the rave scene, which prompted the combining of drug analogs to create different experiences of "a high," he added.

"The mentality in the rave scene has been that people would accomplish whatever they wanted in life through the use of pharmaceuticals," said Szigethy.

Jeff Kulley coordinator of Clinical Services and liaison for Alcohol and Substance Abuse Services for Counseling and Psychological Services noted that much of the information publicly available on 2C drugs comes from their proponents. 2C drugs are known for their hallucinogenic properties, because those are the effects of use most written about, Kulley said. However, he added that 2C drugs also have stimulant properties, making them similar to ecstasy, which has the characteristics of both LSD and amphetamines.

Szigethy said most information on 2C drugs comes from a 1991 book entitled PiHKAL (Phenethylamines I Have Known And Loved): A Chemical Love Story by Alexander and Ann Shulgin. However, Alexander Shulgin didn't just write the book on 2C drugs, he designed or created many of them as well, Szigethy added. Kulley said Shulgin is to 2C drugs as Timothy Leary was to LSD.

Szigethy noted he was concerned that students were attracted to the drugs because they currently lack legal ramifications.

But, according to the United States Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Administration, 2C-B (Nexus), another drug in the 2C family, was listed to Schedule I, first temporarily in the Controlled Substances Act on January 6, 1994 and then permanently in the CSA on July 2, 1995. Because 2C-E and 2C-I are similar in structure to 2C-B, which the Office of National Drug Control Policy states is most often found in powder, tablet or capsule form and is generally orally ingested or snorted, they could be considered analogs of 2C-B. They could, therefore, be illegal due to the Federal Analog Act of 1986.

"[2C-I and 2C-E] are likely covered under the Analogue provision of the DEA Drug Schedule as related to other drugs (2C-B) that are Schedule 1," Dr. Cynthia Kuhn, professor of pharmacology and cancer biology and professor in psychiatry and behavioral science, said in an e-mail. "As such, they would be illegal to possess for any reason. This is being tested in the courts."

On April 4, 2003, the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction submitted risk assessment reports on 2C-I, 2C-T-2 and 2C-T-7 to the European Council and Commission. The European Council and Commission concluded that the drugs were structurally similar to hallucinogens/stimulants that were previously classified under Schedules I and II. They stated that the drugs should be controlled due to their potential for serious health risks. Some experts did not agree with the decision due to its little scientific evidentiary support. 2C-E is a controlled substance in some European nations such as Denmark, and Sweden.

Kuhn noted that  the only data existent on the drugs is from incident reports on the Drug Enforcement Administration web site that have been contradicted by people involved in the documented incidents and from user testimonials in Shulgin’s book and on Erowid.com.

"There simply is not any information from credible sources," Kuhn said. "I consulted with the two foremost hallucinogen experts in the country, Dr. Richard Glennon and Dr. Mark Geyer, and they confirm that there are no published reports, and the research community knows little to nothing about these drugs."

Kuhn adds, however, that the drugs  resemble other drugs with "known mechanisms of action." She said 2C-I and 2C-E probably fuel hallucinations primarily through stimulation of serotonin 5Ht2 receptors, but that they, specifically, have not been tested. The risks of the drugs are most likely "frightening and unpleasant reactions depending on the nature of the experience," Kuhn said. She noted that "with large doses, ecstasy-like increases in heart rate and body temperature that could be dangerous," adding that "this is speculation but is possible based on similar drugs." Kuhn said, like all hallucinogens, 2C-I and 2C-E could cause "transient psychotic reactions in vulnerable individuals."

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