2C-I is a psychedelic phenethylamine of the 2C family. It was first synthesized by Alexander Shulgin. The drug is used recreationally for its psychedelic and entactogenic effects and is sometimes called “smiles” in the media.2C-I is commonly sold in its hydrochloride salt form, which is a fluffy, sparkling-white powder, which can sometimes be pressed into a tablet form.
Like all the 2C drugs, it’s a psychoactive, hallucinogenic chemical that alter the brain’s balance of dopamine and serotonin. Smiles are particularly powerful, binding to serotonin receptors in the brain at 20 times the rate of another drug used in schizophrenia research.
The effects of 2C-I, like those of LSD, can last up to eight hours. But because the effects can take time to appear, users may think they haven’t taken enough to get the desired high, and so take more, risking overdose.
The drug can be taken as small tablets, on pieces of blotter paper like LSD, or in powder form, often mixed with something else, like chocolate.
In June, as part of a Substances Control Act overhaul, Congress made 2C-I a schedule I drug — highly restricted, like methamphetamine. But, explained Drug Enforcement Administration spokesperson Rusty Payne, trying to get government arms around these new drugs is “like playing whack-a-mole. There are just so many emerging chemicals.”
Labs, often located in Europe or Asia, can use legal, common chemicals to produce huge batches of the drugs. Once one formulation is discovered, and banned, all the chemists have to do is slightly alter the structure of the molecules to create another, potentially legal, substitute until that one is banned.
There is no known geographic hot spot for the 2C drugs, unlike, say, methamphetamine, which became known as a rural, small-town problem. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration believes that most, if not all, the 2C drugs are being imported to the country, not made domestically.
Often, Payne said, teens rationalize the use of the drugs because they think, or are told, that it’s legal and if it’s legal, it’s safe. But they are infact Potent & Deadly.
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