Authorities are investigating whether a new designer drug played a role in a gruesome Los Angeles homicide that involved a young actor.
Johnny Lewis, who appeared in the series “Sons of Anarchy,” is suspected of being under the influence of 2C -I (also known as “Smiles”) when he allegedly beat his 81-year-old landlady to death and then attacked a neighbor. The neighbor managed to escape and Lewis was later found dead by police after he apparently fell from a wall at the neighbor’s house.
Toxicology tests on Lewis could take several weeks, but Los Angeles police have stated that the 28-year-old actor’s behavior was consistent with the type of psychotic break that has been seen in other users of 2C-I. Eyewitnesses to Lewis’ attack on his neighbor say he exhibited “superhuman strength.”
This summer, 2C-I was linked to the death of two teenagers in two separate incidents in East Grand Forks, North Dakota. One of the teens was described as shaking, growling and smashing his head against the ground; two hours later he had stopped breathing. Police suspect that the teens could have fallen victim to a tainted batch of the drug. Because 2C-1 is chemically related to amphetamine,it’s also possible that heart arrhythmia was the cause of death.
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Like Bath Salts, 2C-I is a synthetic hallucinogen that has a psychedelic effect on users. It is part of a class of drugs known as phenethylamines. It was discovered by chemist Alexander Shulgin, a drug developer who is credited with popularizing MMDA (ecstasy) and synthesizing more than 230 psychoactive compounds. Shulgin is often referred to as the “godfather of psychedelics.”
According to the Los Angeles Times, the drug is sold as pills or in powder form; users often mix the powder with chocolate. The drug alters the levels of dopamine and serotonin in the brain; its effects are similar to LSD and can last for up to 12 hours.
Some of the side effects of Smiles include:
• Nausea and vomiting.
• Feeling of panic and anxiety.
• Increased heart rate and irregular heart beat (arrhythmia).
In June, Congress classified 2C-I as a schedule I drug; this is the same classification as heroin, ecstasy and LSD. Drugs in this category are not used for medical treatment and have a high potential for abuse. One of the most dangerous aspects of 2C-I and other designer drugs is the lack of quality control in their manufacture. A dose of the drug may contain unknown chemicals in unknown quantities, leading to dangerous and potentially fatal side effects.