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Are You Tripping On Fake LSD?

Are you tripping on fake LSD?
Written by Sarah Friedman

25I-NBOMe is a lab-made drug, which is being sold frequently as a fake version of LSD. Is this drug dangerous?

There are so very many drugs out there; and so very many that are made by governments or research entities. One of interest, has been around since 2003, and goes by the name 25I-NBOMe. This drug is sometimes sold as fake LSD. What is the stuff, is it comparable to the acid we know and love, and is it dangerous? Read on for more info.

The real LSD

The idea of fake is often attached to something that’s synthetic, or unnatural. But it can also mean a phony version of something else that already exists; even if that something else is also synthetic. For the first scenario, think of something like ‘fake leather.’ Its a synthetic version of something that exists in nature. And though its meant to mimic animal hide, the synthetic version is usually made animal-free.

As far as the second scenario, consider fake brands and knockoff products. This implies one company copying another, and selling products as that other company. It doesn’t matter if the product is natural or fake. The idea is that what’s being sold, is the fake version of an already existent product. Both are the case with the drug of interest today, 25I-NBOMe. Its both a synthetic compound, and also a fake version of LSD; something that already exists.

Acid, or LSD, or lysergic acid diethylamide; is a synthetic drug, which was brought to us by Albert Hoffman in 1938. He was working at Sandoz Lab in Switzerland, trying to find functional uses for the ergot fungus, which grows on tainted rye. The lab isolated and studied different compounds from the plant, all of which came from the same starting point of lysergic acid. On his 25th time of pairing the lysergic acid with another compound, this time a derivative of ammonia, called diethylamine; he created the combination called LSD-25.

Hoffman didn’t ingest the compound until 1943; which led to his rather psychedelic bike ride home, the first report of LSD effects; and which thenceforth helped to create a counterculture movement concentrated on this, and other naturally-occurring, psychedelic drugs. Though LSD is synthesized using the ergot plant, its a drug that can only be made in a lab. There is question as to whether ergot itself has some of the capabilities of LSD, but this remains undetermined.

LSD is one of four psychedelic drugs; however, the rest of them are naturally occurring. Together with DMT, mescaline, and psilocybin, LSD gets the title of a psychedelic hallucinogen. These drugs are grouped based on a similar mode of action, which includes elevating serotonin levels. Though the drug MDMA functions similarly; its categorized as a psychostimulant, rather than a psychedelic, when it comes to formal classification.

Fake LSD – 25I-NBOMe

The compound 25I-NBOMe, or 25I for short, is sometimes sold as a fake version of LSD. It was formulated in 2003 during research into how the brain uses 2A serotonin receptors. It’s a member of the 2C family (think 2C-B), and like classical psychedelics, has an agonist effect at 5-HT2A receptors. The discovery was made by Ralf Heim in Berlin, at the Free University of Berlin. Heim published the finding in his dissertation; and the drug was subsequently studied by researchers at Purdue University. Here it was studied in rats, where it was found to be stronger than LSD.

25I-NBOMe is sold as fake LSD
25I-NBOMe is sold as fake LSD

Like a lot of compounds that were created in labs for research purposes, 25I-NBOMe ended up as a black market product. It has its own names on the street, like: “N-Bomb”, “Solaris”, “Smiles”, and “Wizard.” Beyond this, 25I-NBOMe is also sold as fake LSD, since it comes with similar effects as the more well-known psychedelic compound. Its entrance into the black market was around 2010. By 2013, it was common enough to show up in medical literature.

25I-NBOMe differs in many ways from LSD. For one, through uptake methods. The drug reportedly does not work by swallowing, and must go more directly into the bloodstream. This is generally done via intranasal, buccal, or sublingual administration. The former means snorting it, since the inside of the nose has many blood vessels. The latter two relate to uptake by the blood vessels around and under the tongue. For these methods, 25I is often put on blotter paper, similarly to LSD. The paper then gets held in the mouth so the compound is taken up through the mucus lining.

When it comes on blotter paper, is when its most mistaken for acid; as acid is often sold this way. Its also found as gel tabs, or put on candy; which are other ways that acid is sold. 25I is supposedly cheaper than LSD, and easier to make; which means selling 25I-NBOMe as fake LSD, is cost-effective for vendors.

The drug is very potent, and doesn’t require much for a result. Common dosing is somewhat debated, but seems to be in the range of 600–1,200 μg. Both LSD and 25I are known to cause bad trips at times. LSD is never associated with much worse than that; and its debatable if 25I is more dangerous.

What does 25I-NBOMe do?

25I-NBOMe is sold as fake LSD, as its similar to the well-known psychedelic. 25I-NBOMe can last between 4-10 hours, depending on how its taken. It has similar effects in that it causes hallucinations; but there are many reports of negative trips with it, and its thought that the prevalence of bad trips is higher with 25I. As per a study of seven men who entered an emergency room on this drug, some of the similar physical effects to acid are; hypertension, tachycardia, (very infrequent) seizures, and hyperpyrexia (increased body temperature). Both drugs cause hallucinations.

In other ways, its reportedly different, possibly causing more aggression, creatine kinase elevation, the electrolyte imbalance metabolic acidosis, acute kidney dysfunction, hypoglycemia, rhabdomyolysis (damage to skeletal muscles), and organ failure. Its not known how commonly such things occur, however, and there are few reported cases of some of these more severe issues. Its often linked to greater amounts of anxiety, panic, and agitation; and there are a few reports of death, though it seems confirmation is just about the presence of the drug.

Woman with a tab of real or fake LSD
Woman with a tab of real or fake LSD

When it comes to the danger of death and disability, its hard to say just how dangerous – or not – the drug really is. There isn’t official human testing, and we know from drugs like cannabis and LSD, that we’re often told a drug is more dangerous than it actually is. While cannabis and LSD aren’t associated with death, the everyday pain medication Tylenol kills about 500 people a year, just to put it in perspective. We don’t get warned much about that.

So I won’t be the next to warn you about this drug, since there isn’t a lot of data, and there certainly isn’t a mass death issue to make the matter clear. Another problem with understanding its danger level, is knowing how many people use it. Without knowing how prominent it is, its impossible to know if the stories attached represent a problem or not. If one in five dies from something, its a problem. If one in 1,000,000 dies, its less so. These numbers are important.

Is this fake LSD dangerous?

To give an idea about what I mean, the first confirmed death related to 25I was not until 2015. It existed on the black market for about five years without a confirmed death attached, and this just means it was confirmed to be in the user’s system. Right away, this makes it questionable that this is really a drug of concern. We don’t have to question how dangerous synthetic opioids are, or if people die from them. When there’s real danger, its usually visible by a certain point. That first case was of a 15-year-old who consumed 25I along with mushrooms, and ended up dying of multi-organ failure.

That year there were yet another couple reports after. One for 25I, and one of a 16-year-old male who consumed a close relative of 25I, called 25B-NBOMe, via a blotter at a party. He was found unresponsive the next day; and was pronounced dead shortly after. Both of these cases involved agitated behavior by the victim.

While there are several research papers that talk about the toxicity, I can’t give more examples of deaths or disability attributed to this drug (or its near relatives), because there isn’t more mentioned beyond bad trip experiences. Its thought that 25I-NBOMe is sold as fake LSD so often, that a lot of the bad trips people experience, are really caused by 25I, not LSD. If this is the case, it actually speaks to the lack of true detriment; as this means many, many people have taken it (LSD is one of the most popular illicit drugs), with less than five deaths attached from over a decade.

It seems one of the main issues with 25I-NBOMe and other NBOMes, is that they cause more agitation and psychosis. This can lead to thrashing around by the user; which is the impetus for many of the injuries suffered by those on the drug. It’s also possibly associated with suicide; but this assertion too is centered around just a couple cases.

Is 25I-NBOMe dangerous?
Is 25I-NBOMe dangerous?

The first case from 2015, involved an 18-year old who took it thinking it was acid. He experienced a trip, followed by growing anxiety and confusion. He subsequently stabbed himself with scissors, to get out of the trip. Another reportedly jumped to his death in 2017 after taking a blotter at a party, but its unclear if he was on other drugs. Other party-goers explained the blotters were sold at the party, indicating a lot of people probably also ingested them. Yet this is the only report of its nature.

These are just two cases, and what happened isn’t well defined in the reporting of either. Just for a little more perspective, at the same time the debate over the compound’s safety goes on, there’s also a huge debate as to whether government-approved antidepressants raise the risk of suicide. This argument isn’t based off of just two cases, and concerns drugs which are prescribed everyday to millions of people, including kids.

Conclusion

We’ve got fakes markets for just about anything, so maybe its not that weird that 25I-NBOMe is sold as fake LSD. Though this compound has caused a couple problems, it seems the biggest issue is in producing a bad trip. For those not looking to inadvertently experiment with it, or get sold a fake product; maybe best to stick with mushrooms or DMT instead.

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About the author

Sarah Friedman

I look stuff up and and write stuff down, in order to make sense of the world around. And I travel a lot too.