Late in the afternoon on November 11, with school out for Veterans Day, a UCSB student in Isla Vista took what his friends said was LSD for the first time. As he wandered along Del Playa Drive, one of those friends worried for his safety and followed him. When he headed toward the cliffs, she tried to pull him back. But he broke from her grasp, walked to the edge, and jumped with his arms straight out in front of him. He landed on his chest and head 40 feet below. Paramedics found the 20-year-old bleeding from the mouth and trying to stand up. Sheriff’s deputies had to hold him down so he wouldn’t hurt himself any further.
The next day, UCSB medical director Dr. Mary Ferris issued a rare Health Alert to all students about an increase in specific “dangerous LSD-like drugs” in I.V. and on campus. These synthetic hallucinogens — referred to as “N-Bomb,” “Flakka,” and “bath salts” — are often sold as substitutes for LSD or mescaline, Ferris said, but are much more powerful and unpredictable. They can cause a condition called “excited delirium,” where the user experiences hyperstimulation and paranoia, which sometimes leads to violent aggression and self-injury, she said.
Four days after Ferris’s warning, Sheriff’s officials released the toxicology report in the October 11 death of 19-year-old UCSB student Andres Sanchez. He had taken N-Bomb and ketamine (an anesthetic with strong hallucinogenic properties) before he punched through a window in his apartment and bled to death from a deep cut in his arm, the report states. Witnesses that night said a psychotic Sanchez ran through Isla Vista’s streets, yelling gibberish, and that he was completely uncontrollable as they attempted to help him. One witness claimed he tried to have sex with her as she and her roommates waited by his side for an ambulance.
Santa Barbara authorities say the recent increase in synthetic-drug use in I.V. and around the county — especially among college-aged students this fall — follows a troubling nationwide trend. The local uptick hasn’t been dramatic, Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Kelly Hoover said, but certainly notable. Generally found as powders, liquids, soaked into blotter paper, or laced onto something edible, the illegal and addictive designer drugs act on serotonin receptors in the brain. They’re often more amphetamine-like compared to other hallucinogens, and the highs can last just a few hours or linger for several days.
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