Media coverage smears LSD in face-eating episode

Posted on May 30th, 2012 by Bill Weinberg and tagged , , , , , .

"A Miami man fatally shot by police after he refused to stop gnawing on another man's face may have been under the influence of a new form of the 1960s hallucinatory drug LSD, a top police officer said on Wednesday." So reads the Reuters account of the ghoulish May 29 incident that made national headlines—most of them inaccurate. The account quotes Armando Aguilar, president of the Miami Fraternal Order of Police saying: "We've had at least two incidents in the past couple of months with people claiming they took a new form of LSD and complained of feeling a burning sensation that forced them to take their clothes off and led them to become very violent." This is all nonsense. LSD is an acronym for a chemical formula; there is no such thing as a "new form" of lysergic acid diethylamide. So what is going on here?

Georgia's WSAV adds to the confusion, but at least provides a clue, with its (inaccurate) headline "New Form of LSD/Bath Salts Cause Severe Delirium." It quotes a medical doctor (presumably from a Miami-area emergency room, although this is not explicitly stated) warning that cocaine and LSD can cause "delirium"—but then suddenly switches halfway through the article to blaming "bath salts" in the grisly attack—with no explanation.

New York magazine's Daily Intel blog uses these fuzzy allegations for some Reagan-vintage generic anti-drug alarmism, concluding: "Not becoming a flesh-eating zombie is my anti-drug."

After considerable searching, we finally found one account that actually explains the source of the confusion, although it engages in its own distortions. From CNN's health blog, The Chart:

What would make someone attack another man like an animal? Armando Aguilar, president of the Miami Fraternal Order of Police, suspects that the attacker was under the influence of drugs known as "bath salts."

...Bath salts contain amphetamine-like chemicals such as methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV), mephedrone, and pyrovalerone. They’re referred to as a “designer drug of the phenethylamine class” by the Drug Enforcement Administration. Other drugs in this class include amphetamines, mescaline, and ephedrine. MDPV comes in a powdered form that is inhaled, swallowed or shot into a vein. Bath Salts are sold as "cocaine substitutes" or "synthetic LSD".

OK, so (as we suspected) LSD isn't to blame here at all; MDPV is. And "synthetic LSD" is a redundancy, since all LSD is synthetic (it was created in a laboratory in 1938). What the account really means is that bath salts containing MDPV are being sold as bogus LSD, and bogus cocaine. Anyone with half a brain ought to know to stay away from that. But anyone who has ever done real LSD knows that (while it is a powerful substance to be treated with respect) it does not turn you into a flesh-eating zombie! Please! It is amazing and demoralizing how ubiquitously distorted the media coverage of this affair has been. Please post and forward this widely to set the record straight!

Image of LSD molecule from Wikipedia  




"Bath salt" mystery

Bill Weinberg's picture

 A report on says these "bath salts" are being sold under such "innocuous names" as Ivory Wave, Red Dove, Bliss and Vanilla Sky, implying that they were developed as recreational drugs, rather than products developed as actual bath salts which are being marketed as LSD and cocaine by unscrupulous dealers. The Ivory Wave product website contains no implication of psychoactive properties. Not that that proves anything.

Comment by Bill Weinberg on May 31st, 2012 at 12:29 am

No "bath salts" after all!

Bill Weinberg's picture

 Finally, results of a toxicology report are in on accused face-eater Rudy Eugene, and guess what? He wasn't on "bath salts" after all! After all the sensationalism, there was nothing to the whole theory! Alas, he did test positive for cannabis, which will doubtlessly be used as cynical propaganda against the herb. Nobody asked if he used coffee, cigarettes, white sugar, etc... (See Time's Healthland blog, June 27)

Comment by Bill Weinberg on Jun 30th, 2012 at 12:05 am

Cannabis-induced cannibalism?

Bill Weinberg's picture

That's really what they're saying. Amazing that even as the herb is finally being normalized in American society, we are still treated to this kind of paranoid "reefer madness." "Science blogger" (sic) Moura Ibrahim writes in Huffington Post, apparently without irony, "Was Miami Face-Chewing Attack Caused by Cannabis-Induced Psychosis?" She links to the recent studies linking cannabis to psychosis which we already shot down. Fortunately, the commentors give Moura some well-earned ridicule. Our fave: "Worst case of munchies, ever. New flavor of Doritos desperately needed. Slogan: 'Taste the face'."

Comment by Bill Weinberg on Jul 7th, 2012 at 3:39 pm

"Synthetic LSD" in the news again

Bill Weinberg's picture

Five Minnesota teens have been charged with murder after a 17-year-old girl overdosed in January on what media accounts are again calling "a synthetic form of LSD." prosecutors say. But a May 28 account on the Minneapolis City Pages reveals that the actual substance was 25i-NBOMe—that is, not LSD at all. And not legal, since it is also a Schedule 1 controlled substance.

Comment by Bill Weinberg on Jun 16th, 2014 at 1:24 pm

Who's new

  • Baba Israel
  • Karr Young
  • John Veit
  • YosephLeib
  • Peter Gorman