The drugs arrived in an “unnamed, unmarked package,” recalls Timothy LaMere. The rest of what happened that night is more of a blur. After sharing the 2C-E — a synthetic imitation of the rave drug ecstasy — with friends at a house party in Blaine, Minn., things started to go very wrong. Those who took the drug became dangerously unwell — sweating, shaking, rolling around on the floor and experiencing seizures and severe pain. LaMere was among 10 people hospitalized, while one friend, 19-year-old Trevor Robinson, father of a 5-month-old baby, died after “punching walls, breaking items, staring and having dilated pupils and yelling,” according to the criminal complaint. LaMere is currently serving a 10-year sentence for third-degree unintentional murder in a state correctional facility. “I feel horrible. I feel horrible for Trevor’s family — I was close to his mum before — and I feel horrible for anyone who knew him,” he tells TIME.
The 2C-E that LaMere purchased online is part of the latest drug scourge of new psychoactive substances (NPS), dubbed “legal highs,” to blight not only the U.S. but countries all over the world. Their growing popularity opens up a new front in the drug war, shifting the front line from the Colombian jungles, Afghan hills and Winnebagos of New Mexico to the laboratories of Shanghai and other Chinese cities, where, according to the DEA, legal highs are typically produced.