Eleven teenagers and young adults were hospitalized Thursday and one of them died after apparently overdosing on an unregulated hallucinogenic drug while celebrating spring break at a house party in the Minneapolis suburbs, authorities said.
The drug, which is called 2C-E and is also known as "Europa," has no medical use and was bought legally over the Internet for the party in Blaine, said Paul Sommer, a commander in the Anoka County Sheriff's Office.
Officers called to the home because of a reported overdose found several people already sickened when they arrived shortly after midnight. Others who fled the house were later found to be suffering the effects of an overdose, investigators said.
Eleven people ranging in age from 16 to 21 were taken to area hospitals. A 19-year-old man from Coon Rapids died, and two others were in critical condition late Thursday afternoon. Police did not identify those sickened. The boy who hosted the party was apparently among them.
The house where the party was held is a beige, two-story home, one of many like it in this modest suburb north of Minneapolis. A pair of trucks stood in the driveway late Thursday, but a tall fence with a "Beware of Wife" sign on it made it difficult to see much else.
Although rare, there have been several U.S. deaths from drugs similar to 2C-E since 2000.
Carol Falkowski, a drug abuse strategy officer with the Minnesota Department of Human Services, said the drugs were more popular in the Minneapolis area about 10 years ago, when raves were more popular.
Falkowski said 2C-E is chemically similar to 2C-B, which is regulated as a controlled substance and therefore would not be legal to buy online. A federal law says "cousin drugs" similar to 2C-B can be considered illegal if they're intended for consumption, but does not specifically regulate all similar incarnations that have surfaced over the years, such as 2C-I and 2C-T-7.
"They're all just a molecule away from each other," Falkowski said.
None of the drugs are approved for human use and they have been known to produce adverse reactions, especially when combined with prescription drugs, particularly antidepressants, Falkowski said.
"It's really a sad situation where so many people are involved in using a drug that can have such harmful effects," Falkowski said.
The federal Drug Enforcement Agency has recorded at least two deaths from 2C-T-7, including one in Oklahoma in April 2000 and one in Washington in 2001 of a person who used it with Ecstasy.
Regulating designer drugs is difficult because the makers can tweak the formulas so easily.
A federal ban on the sale of five chemicals used in herbal blends to make synthetic marijuana took effect last month. Fake pot, sold in drug paraphernalia shops and on the Internet, has been marketed under various brands including Spice, K2, Blaze and Red X Dawn. Versions using slightly different chemicals remain available.