Investigators said the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension has identified the drug as 2C-E. It appeared the hallucinogen, which is sometimes known on the street as "Europa" and has no approved medical use, was legally ordered over the Internet for a spring break party, said Paul Sommer, a commander in the Anoka County Sheriff's Office.
A 19-year-old Coon Rapids man, whose name was not immediately released, died hours after officers responded to reports of an overdose at the house in Blaine, investigators said. Officers found several people there who were ill shortly after midnight. Others who fled the house were later found to also be suffering the effects of an overdose.
Eleven people ranging in age from 16 to 21 were taken to area hospitals. Two remained hospitalized in critical condition late Thursday afternoon. They allegedly took the substance at a party hosted by one of the boys, who is now hospitalized.
Although rare, a handful of deaths have been reported on drugs similar to 2C-E around the country since 2000.
Carol Falkowski, drug abuse strategy officer with the Minnesota Department of Human Services, said the drugs were more heavily used in the Twin Cities 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, Falkowski said, especially when combined with prescription drugs. Antidepressants in particular are known to be a bad combination.
"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.