Smiles: The Dark Side of a Joyful Symbol

Smiles: The Dark Side of a Joyful Symbol

Smiles, yet another designer drug to hit the US seems to be just as deadly as the other synthetic drugs we are more familiar with. According to the DEA, this drug is “a synthetic drug abused for its hallucinogenic effects,” and has “been encountered in a number of states by federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies.”  Still, the findings regarding this substance are so preliminary, all we really have to refer to are user stories on YouTube, and that’s not an ideal source. The popularity of drugs like Smiles, K2, Spice, and Bath Salts is partly due to the ease of their availability and their inexpensive price tag. They are easily purchased online, in liquor stores, and particularly in states that haven’t elicited new, prohibitive laws regarding these synthetic drugs. What’s troublesome is these drugs are typically created and recreated faster than the FDA can process requests to ban them. Often times, it’s a sudden increase in ER visits by patients suffering similarly which alerts professionals of a new drug is on the scene.

What is Smiles? 

We don’t know much, but we do know that 2C-1 aka Smiles is an amphetamine/hallucinogen whose effects have been compared to a combination of LSD and MDMA. Some even say it’s similar to PCP.  2C-1 (Smiles) was initially popular in Europe, emerging onto their party scene in 2003. Smiles is classified as aphenethylamines—essentially amphetamines but with an additional chemical compound added which change its effects. Instead of the increased heart rate and feeling of speediness so commonly associated with amphetamine use, the effect of 2c-1 is more euphoric and psychedelic, again more in line with that found in psychedelics.  Like most of these synthetic drugs,  they are commonly manufactured in illegal labs, which make it terribly difficult to regulate.

What population is using Smiles?

The same population that uses this elicit drug is the same one that uses drugs like Ecstasy, Spice, Bath Salts, K2, and other club drugs: high-school and college students and other young adults that frequent party and club settings. Like the others, Smiles is easy to get, cheap, and not always easy to detect in drug tests. Because the evolution of these synthetic drugs is so fast, parents, teachers, mental health and law enforcement professionals may be caught off guard. Awareness is going to be your best defense.

So, what can you do?

  • Be aware of your young adults’ friends and sudden changes in those social circles.
  • Do you really know where your kids go when they “hang out”? Sudden secrecy (more than the usual we expect from adolescents) should raise a red flag. Instead of approaching your concern with anger, show concern with an open heart. Try and remember how YOU felt as a teen.
  • Look into your teens’ eyes: Are the pupils dilated (huge)?  Are they pinpoints?
  • Watch for sudden changes in grades or attendance.
  • Gather information from viable, legitimate sources (NIDA, DEA)
  • Get some support for yourself: therapy, support groups, et cetera.
  • Practice self-care. It’s harder to care for others when you are not taken care of.

These drugs are serious. They are unknown in many ways, and that fact alone makes them deadly. Stay tuned; I’m sure there will be more information to follow. In the meantime, be as transparent as you can be with your kids. Chances are, if they feel emotionally safe enough to confide in you and talk to you in general, they are less likely to hide the important things and travel along a path of self-destruction.

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