Louisiana health officials did not delay in reacting to the recent emergence of 25-I, a new synthetic hallucinogen, which also goes by the names "N-Bomb" or "Smiles."
The drug got passed around like candy during last week’s Voodoo Festival and is responsible for the death of 21-year-old Clayton Orwell of Little Rock, Ark. He ingested one drop of the liquefied drug, and within 30 minutes had slipped into unconsciousness. He died several days later. NOLA.com reports that at least two additional fest-goers checked into area hospitals that weekend due to 25-I overdoses.
According to NOLA.com’s report, here’s what one festival-goer recalls:
"This weekend, it was everywhere," said Jarod Brignac, 24, who also was with Otwell at the festival. "The people had bottles and bottles of it; they were walking through the crowd, trying to make a dime off people at the festival."
The potency of the drug is intense from the onset, said Brignac, who said he has taken 25-I once. At Voodoo and other music festivals, Brignac said, drug dealers do not warn people about the drug’s possible effects. "It’s called research chemicals, and everyone out there in the festival is the guinea pig."
Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals, at a press conference Friday, announced it was invoking the state’s emergency ban on the substance.
According to a press release issued Friday by DHH:
25-I is a synthetic drug that can cause brain hemorrhaging, seizures, hallucinations, confusion, paranoia, fear and panic. Over the past three months, the Louisiana Poison Center has received two calls related to 25-I, but health officials suspect more cases have occurred because without advance lab analysis, it is difficult to pinpoint what type of drug is responsible for a drug overdose. Some drug overdoses that medical personnel or law enforcement presumed to be bath salts or other illicit drugs could be 25-1 or another of many synthetic drugs.
This synthetic drug is commonly manufactured in China and India, and is being sold in powder and liquid form online, which is how people access it in the United States.
Along with Virginia, Friday’s ban makes Louisiana the second state to make 25-I illegal. The drug is now included in the state’s list of Schedule I drugs, meaning its possession, manufacture and distribution are punishable by up to 30 years in prison.
Here in Lafayette, Capt. Ted Vincent of the Lafayette Police Department’s Narcotics Division says 25-I has yet to hit the streets. Or if it has, he says, no arrests have resulted.
“We got the intelligence bulletin on this last week, and we know there’s six confirmed cases of overdoses in Arkansas, so I figured something would have come up around here,” Vincent tells IND Monthly. “But with this stuff going for up to $500 a gram, it’s probably too expensive to become a problem here.”
Click here to read more on Otwell’s death.
Read Friday’s press release from DHH here.