The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has issued stern warnings about N-Bomb, the designer drug often called “legal LSD,” voicing support for legislation designed to make the substance illegal to possess under Massachusetts law. The drug has been linked to overdose deaths, with some who died being as young as 15. State laws are struggling to keep up with the constantly-evolving landscape of quasi-legal “designer” drugs. DEA spokesperson Anthony Pettigrew cut right to the problem while offering support for the new Massachusetts law: “Any time someone uses any synthetic drug, including N-Bomb, they’re playing Russian roulette.”
What Is N-Bomb?
N-Bomb is a “designer” drug, which means it’s a synthetic chemical engineered to have similar effects to a known (illegal) drug, in this case LSD. This makes N-Bomb a synthetic hallucinogen, derived from mescaline (another illegal hallucinogen), although it was originally created to map serotonin receptors in the brain before being abused as a recreational drug. The substance—otherwise called “Smiles,” “25I” or simply “legal LSD”—is often sold on blotter paper (in “tabs”), but also comes in powder or liquid form, and, like LSD, a single dose only requires a tiny amount of the substance, just 0.05 and 0.1 milligrams, making it easy to overdose. The drug can be absorbed into the lining of the mouth in blotter paper form, but it may also be snorted or even sprayed when found in powder or liquid form.
Effects, Risks of N-Bomb
The effects of N-Bomb are similar to those of LSD: users “trip,” altering their perception of reality and seeing or hearing things that aren’t there. The effects of the drug persist for six to 10 hours and can vary according to the individual and his or her state of mind. Many experience euphoria and positive changes when under the influence of the substance, but a “bad trip” can lead to intense feelings of tension, nervousness, aggression, fear and confusion. As with all designer drugs, the small changes made to the chemical structure of the illegal substance it’s modeled after can lead to profound differences in its effects, and since N-Bomb is still very new, we don’t have a full grasp of either the effects or the risks. That said, there are several known risks to taking N-Bomb, including increased heart rate and blood pressure, rapid or irregular heartbeat, increased body temperature, insomnia, aggressive behavior, seizures, kidney failure or, in extreme cases, coma. Between March 2012 and August 2013, there were at least 19 overdose deaths involving N-Bomb, with victims aged between 15 and 29. Pettigrew pulls no punches when discussing N-Bomb on behalf of the DEA. “There’s no such thing as a safe synthetic drug. One dose can kill you,” he says. “The motive of the people who are selling N-Bomb and Molly and K2/Spice is to make money, whether it kills the user or not. They’re not that interested in the tragedies that it causes for the families—they’re just interested in making money.”
Federal and State Laws on N-Bomb
Designer drugs are effectively created to exist in legal loopholes, but those loopholes are being rapidly closed by legislation. At present, N-Bomb is illegal to possess under federal law, but state laws haven’t always been established, and for Massachusetts, state Rep. Cory Atkins and Sen. Michael Moore are working to remedy the situation. Moore explained that, “The problem for our law enforcement officials is that they’re out there trying to address the issue and they’re handcuffed by the fact that they don’t have the statutory authority to enforce it.”
Legal Does Not Mean Safe
The story of N-Bomb is really the story of all designer drugs: a small change is made to an illegal substance to make something technically legal with similar but ultimately unknown effects. At first, some people assume that this technical legality means the drug must be safe, but it doesn’t take long for tragedy to strike and the potential risks to become more well-known. Eventually, laws get changed and the substance gets relegated to the trash can of history, as people realize that taking an unknown substance with no quality control and unknown effects really isn’t a good idea, and certainly isn’t safe. Another problem comes after a substance is outlawed, because there’s always something new waiting to take its place. Consistent laws on such issues between states and the feds are one thing, but what’s really needed is a more wide-reaching way to address the constant influx of novel substances without always having to play catch-up, or even a more radical approach altogether. Those who are addicted to LSD or similar substances should seek treatment for their addiction before falling prey to these dangers.