25I-NBOMe is one of the latest of a long line of "chemical analogs" (of which you know quite a few examples having read this article), variants of known narcotics that have been altered just enough that they can't be considered the same as the household brands they're imitating. This makes these analog drugs technically legal, in the same way that putting mirrors on your shoes is technically legal. Rogue chemists have been playing this cat-and-mouse game with the D.E.A. since the '70s, always trying to be a few molecular changes ahead of the curve.
So if NBOMe is just the New Coke of LSD, why is it offing more teenagers than a camp serial killer? It turns out that its greatest asset is also what makes it so terribly dangerous. The value of chemical analogs lies in that they're "slightly different" from their controlled cousins, but in chemistry, "slightly different" can turn your lungs into goo. And there's no way of knowing what exactly NBOMe is capable of, as the drug was intended to be used only in animal experiments and no large human trials on its effects have ever been conducted. That means that 25I-NBOMe doesn't have users, it only has guinea pigs.
"Hey, I removed one atom from that boring old 'carbon dioxide.' Wanna try some?"
Not that people know what they're actually taking. The reason this particular variant is becoming so popular is because it's 16 times stronger than its other NBOMe cousins. But people don't tend to whip out their testing kits when someone hands them a sachet of white powder. It's also quite a bit cheaper than LSD, so plenty of dealers try to pass it off as the brand name. The resulting trip is usually unpredictable and often fatal.
Deaths linked to NBOMe have been described as "violent." One 18-year-old experienced such extreme depression after mistakenly taking the drug that he tried to commit suicide by stabbing himself repeatedly in the neck with a pair of scissors. Another appeared as if "possessed," foaming at the mouth and smashing his head against the floor. Another teen jumped off a balcony to his death high on "N-Bomb." He thought he had taken LSD. He also thought he could fly.
And we'll never know if he was right because he died before we could find out.
Since it crept into drug culture in between 2010 and 2013, the NBOMe loophole has been all but closed. By 2015, most countries had rescheduled it as the dangerous narcotic that it is, making it much harder and riskier to obtain. But with NBOMe on its way out, it's only a matter of time before some middling chemist without scruples finds another way to mod an existing drug into something not yet illegal. So the lesson here, kids, is that if you're going to take drugs, stick to the brands you know and trust. And don't do a taste test.
Cedric Voets is a total square who gets nervous popping an aspirin. For more of his attempts at witticisms or his famous recipes for toilet wine, do follow him on Twitter.
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