One Dead, 10 Hospitalized In Minnesota Mass Overdose - News - @

One Dead, 10 Hospitalized In Minnesota Mass Overdose

Some users snorted the powder; others mixed it in drinks.


SARAH HORNER, St. Paul Pioneer Press | | Friday, March 18, 2011

They bought it online, and it wasn't illegal, but the white powder that 11 teenagers and young adults took late Wednesday night at a party in Blaine left one dead and 10 hospitalized.

The people involved in what authorities are calling a "mass overdose" range in age from 16 to 21. At least two were in critical condition Thursday evening.

The name of the 19-year-old Coon Rapids man who died was not released.

The teens and young adults were at a party at 9532 Monroe St. N.E. when they took a chemical called 2C-E, a substance that authorities say is sometimes described as synthetic Ecstasy or a party drug. Some users snorted the powder; others mixed it in drinks.

Blaine police went to the house just before 1 a.m. Thursday after a 911 call reporting that someone was not breathing, police Capt. Kerry Fenner said. When they arrived, officers discovered several people in medical distress.

"Euphoria, hallucinations, they seemed to be out of it," Fenner said of the symptoms. "You could definitely tell they were intoxicated on something. Some of them were in respiratory distress."

Some of the partiers had left before police arrived and began suffering the effects of the drug elsewhere. Police eventually located everyone and all 11 were taken by ambulance to hospitals.

The 19-year-old was placed on life support at Unity Hospital in Fridley and pronounced dead later Thursday, Anoka County sheriff's office spokesman Paul Sommer said.

On Thursday afternoon, a woman at the site of the party said she had no comment and asked reporters to leave. Two teenage boys who left the house in a van also declined to comment.

Police said one of the partiers was a 16-year-old boy who lived at the residence. According to Anoka County property records, the home is owned by Michael and Michelle Fisher.

Authorities described the incident as alarming, particularly given the legality of the drug, and warned parents and potential users of the risks.

"Although it's available and may be legal, it is by no means safe," Sommer said. "We have one person who has died ... and 10 others awaiting their fate in area hospitals."

Some of the people involved told authorities they believed the chemical they had taken was 2C-I, sometimes referred to as Izzy or Zoom, police said. After recovering a sample at the scene and testing it, authorities were able to determine the drug was in fact 2C-E, a slightly different substance.

2C-E, sometimes referred to as Europa, comes in a white powder or is pressed into pills and is in the same chemical family as 2C-I and 2C-B, both illegal drugs known for hallucinogenic effects similar to mescaline or LSD, said Carol Falkowski, the drug abuse strategy officer for the Minnesota Department of Human Services.

"In spite of that, there are unscrupulous entrepreneurial websites that apparently keep selling them," Falkowski said of the drugs. "The danger is, when you purchase these substances you don't know that they are what they say they are. ... And you don't know the potency of it, so you can't accurately gauge the amount you're taking."

Falkowski compared the emergence of these drugs to the recent popularity of K2, a synthetic marijuana.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration issued an emergency order making it illegal to possess or sell K2. The order will remain in effect for one year as the DEA and federal health officials study the drug and determine whether it should be permanently controlled.

K2 had been popping up in head shops and on websites for the past few years. There were increasing cases of hospitalization, prompting action from local, state and federal officials.

Before Thursday's incident, Sommer said, local authorities hadn't seen much 2C-E and weren't that familiar with it. He also said they believed the individuals involved didn't have much experience with it either, given the number who overdosed.

Details about who bought the drug or where they found it online were not known, Sommer said. Authorities do not believe any parents were home during the party. They also said that some of the teens and young adults were reportedly drinking alcohol but that there was no indication other drugs were involved.

"A lot of our key witnesses are still not conscious or not cognizant (enough) to be spoken with and one of them is dead, so clearly this is a major incident that is going to need some investigation," Sommer said.

It was unclear whether the investigation could result in criminal charges.

"We are going to ... do what we can to do something about it," Fenner said.

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