LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - For years raves, concerts and music festivals served as a hotbed for drugs and alcohol.
In the early 2000s, Ecstasy stormed the nation's music venues and night clubs. Now synthetic drugs mimicking Ecstasy and LSD take center stage.
"You don't know where this drug comes from or who put it together. Do they have the right chemical degree? Again, you're just depending... you're buying illegal drugs on the street that are high risk," explained Bill Bryant of the Arkansas Drug Enforcement Administration.
That's a risk that 24-year-old Clayton Otwell of Little Rock unfortunately took. Otwell and a group of friends went to Voodoo Fest in New Orleans last October and, according to a friend, the Little Rock native accepted a drop of the synthetic hallucinogen, called 25i, from a stranger. The chemicals in Otwell's body sent him into seizures, and he never regained consciousness.
Dr. Joseph Lasky at Tulane University Hospital, where doctors tried to save Otwell, stressed you never know what you'll get with this drug.
"The drug binds to a receptor in the brain, a 5ht receptor; the amount of this receptor is highly variable from person to person. There's no predicting the effect or the magnitude of the effect that this drug is going to have," said Lasky. "That makes it particularly dangerous."
Another hallucinogenic drug "Molly," which is a powdered form of Ecstasy, causes similar concern for UALR Criminal Justice Professor Tim Brown.
"Some of the thinking now from some of the kids is since it's in the powdered form and that it's termed 'Molly' is that it's the pure form of MDMA; however, that's little to be the case," he said.
Nationally, Molly gets quite a bit of publicity, but Bryant said more cases of manmade drugs have surfaced in the southern region.
"Four states - Arkansas, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. We're seeing different spots of our region to where you're seeing synthetic hallucinogens," said Bryant.
The Arkansas DEA is assisting New Orleans authorities to track down the person who gave Otwell the single drop of 25i that killed him.