Cousin Drugs – One Molecule Away From Illegal

As if employers don’t have enough to worry about when it comes to illicit drug use by workers, there are now “cousin drugs.” Cousin drugs may be “…only one molecule apart from their banned relatives.”1 These drugs are sometimes made by combining two other drugs and the chemical reaction creates a new chemical composition that is technically not illegal or by altering an illegal drug through the addition of solutions and then heating the concoction.

One of the best examples of cousin drugs is called 2C-E and in street parlance it is sometimes referred to as Europa or Tootsie. This drug is so new to everyday users that a search on the Australian Drug Foundation website produces no results. This drug is also technically legal because it is not specifically listed as a controlled substance by the government. It has actually been around since the late 1970s but was intended only for industrial or chemical research use. The drug named 2C-E is a powerful synthetic hallucinogenic that is a “cousin” to the rave-party drugs in the 2C class of drugs and can produce as deadly results as other illicit substances.

What exactly is the drug 2C-E then? The term 2C-E is an acronym for 2, 5-dimethoxy-4-ethylphenethylamine. It is a member of the psychoactive drug class called entactogenic meaning it produces effects similar to those of MDMA.  The cousin drugs like 2C-E are not well documented as of yet in terms of street or party use, but Wikipedia describes it as a “psychedelic and phenethylamine of the 2C family.”2 The 2C drug class refers to psychedelic drugs that contain phenethylamine which in organic chemistry means that the drug contains methoxy groups on the 2 and 5 positions of the benzene ring.

Describing this drug in its simplest terms, 2C-E is a phenethylamine derivative. It is the word “derivative” that reminds us that this drug is one molecule off from the original psychedelic drugs from which it is made. According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, 2C-E is an analog of 2C-B meaning it has a close but not exact chemical composition.

According to the drug forums, 2C-E produces the same effect as having taken a dose of LSD and mushrooms. Taken in pill or powder form, it produces vivid visual effects that can last for up to 12 hours. It is dose sensitive with 15mg producing exponential effects compared to 10 mg. This drug is illegal in some countries, but not all. In fact, in the U.S. you can legally buy it online because it is sold as a research chemical, and Australia has not yet included it on the illicit drugs list. It’s actually been around for decades, as mentioned, but only recently has started showing up at parties and clubs as a street drug.

When it shows up the consequences can be tragic. The reason cousin drugs are coming to forefront of discussions is that a young 21-year old man died and 11 others aged 16 to 21 had to be hospitalised after taking 2C-E.3 The rest of the story is that the US law enforcement agents reported that the synthetic legal drugs are showing up more frequently and that analog or cousin drugs are a growing problem.4

Clearly the laws on drugs are going to have to be amended in countries around the world to address the use of cousin drugs for the sole purpose of getting high. For example, the 2C class of drugs include 2C-C and 2C-I (both illegal) and 2C-E (legal). The only differences in structure are related to the “…substituent present at the 4-position of the aromatic ring (chloride, iodide and ethyl, respectively.”5 Thus the “one molecule” reference.

Employers cannot be expected to keep up with every drug that drug users can invent. Fortunately, employers have the right to address any on-the-job behaviour from a safety perspective. Any staff member exhibiting behaviour that jeopardises the safety of the worker or co-workers can be drug tested for cause and stopped from completing job duties until able to once again perform tasks safely.

Employers do have an obligation though to keep their drug testing equipment as technologically current as possible. That is where CMM Technology at can help because equipment is under constant development to insure employers are able to test for the most popular illicit drugs even when used in new formulas. There is no way to catch every cousin drug thanks to the innovativeness of drug users, but that should not prevent efforts to keep the workplace as safe as possible.


1Bannow, T. (2011, March 18). Deadly Party Shows Danger of ‘Cousin Drugs’. Retrieved April 3, 2011, from Star-Telegram:

22C-E. (2011, April 6). Retrieved April 6, 2011, from Wikipedia:

3Op Cit, Bannow

4Mannix, A. (2011, March 18). 2C-E: What Is It? Retrieved April 6, 2011, from City Pages:

5Drugs Forum. (2011). 2C-E. Retrieved April 4, 2011, from Drugs-Forum:

Tags: , , ,