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Reported LSD-Related Death was Not LSD
5-MeO-AMT is Confirmed by Toxicology
by Erowid
v1.6 - Jul 2007
Citation:   Erowid. "Reported LSD-Related Death was Not LSD". Erowid.org. Jul 2007. Online edition: Erowid.org/chemicals/lsd/lsd_media2.shtml
Summary
In October 2004, several newspapers reported that Gloria Discerni, a student at North Idaho College, had died after an LSD overdose. Initial reports stated that a friend of Discerni, another freshman named Cameron Jester, added somewhere between 6 and 12 "drops" or "hits" of LSD to her orange juice. Reports vary on whether or not she knew the material was in her drink (most suggest she did), and we do know that Jester also consumed the material. Discerni relatively quickly began having a negative reaction to the ingestion including vomiting and "slipping in and out of consciousness". Gloria Discerni went into a coma and was removed from life support three days later, on October 15, at the hospital.

Though initial reports identified the substance as "LSD", those of us familiar with the range of psychoactives quickly suspected that it was some other material, perhaps a research chemical such as 5-MeO-AMT. There are only one or two known deaths directly resulting from the LSD ingestion, and rarely, if ever, is this sort of negative physical reaction seen to a dose of 6-12 hits. Subsequent toxicology results verified that the substance was, in fact, 5-MeO-AMT, not LSD. A medical examiner's office representative describing the case mentions the presence of bupropion (Wellbutrin; Zyban) metabolite. Bupropion is known to lower seizure threshold and could have contributed to Discerni's death.

Below is a dated record of the issue as it evolved.

December 2006:
    Prosecutors have dismissed involuntary manslaughter charges against a former North Idaho College student who was set to be tried this week for the 2004 overdose death of a classmate. Cameron Jester's attorney argued -- and a judge agreed -- that the involuntary manslaughter case amounted to double jeopardy because the 20-year-old previously was convicted of related drug charges. [Spokesman-Review, Dec 13 2006]

Summer 2005:
Spokane Medical Examiner's Office:
    A 19 y/o female ingested a substance in the form of drops that she placed under her tongue as well as in a drink. About three hours later she presented to the hospital delirious and somewhat combative. She then had seizures that progressed to status epilepticus. Her condition worsened with hypotension, hyperthermia, metabolic acidosis, respiratory failure, and rhabdomyolysis. She remained unresponsive and comatose and died 2 days later.

    The substance she ingested was later identified as 5-methoxy-alphamethyltryptamine (5-MeO-AMT). The clinical course and autopsy findings were consistent with the sequelae and complications of status epilepticus, most probably due to a toxic encephalopathy (since infectious, metabolic, and anatomic causes were excluded). Postmortem toxicology analysis of hospital admission urine, blood, and serum samples revealed the presence of 5-MeO-AMT. No other drugs were detected by a general screen of the urine sample. An antemortem hospital drug screen of a urine sample obtained about 5 hours after admission revealed only bupropion metabolite (this drug screen did not include an analysis for tryptamines). An antemortem hospital serum ethanol was 0.04 GM%.

    Based on the reported circumstances, autopsy findings, and toxicology results, I believe that the cause of death can be attributed to a toxic encephalopathy due to 5-MeO-AMT intoxication. Granted, I have reached this conclusion primarily by a process of elimination as there seems to be a paucity of literature on the toxicity of 5-MeO-AMT, although some information can be found on the Internet.
    -Marco A. Ross, M.D., Deputy Medical Examiner, Spokane County Office of the Medical Examiner

April 2005:
The Spokesman Review reported :
"A North Idaho College student who brought a designer drug to a party last October will spend the next three years on probation for his part in the overdose death of 18-year-old Gloria Discerni. Cameron James Jester, 19, of Lincoln, Neb., was sentenced to 2 years in prison, but the incarceration was suspended in favor of probation by Judge Charles Hosack. Jester's court-appointed attorney, Lynn Nelson, apologized on behalf of his client to the parents of Discerni, an NIC student from Cottage Grove, Ore. Nelson said a number of people had asked Jester to bring LSD to the Oct. 12 party so they could try it. Police found that the drug Jester had brought was a designer drug, likely made in a clandestine drug lab, called 5-MeO-AMT. Police testified at Jester's preliminary hearing that it's more potent than LSD..."
("Man gets probation for supplying drug". The Spokesman Review (online edition), Apr 22 2005; Regional News section.)
December 2004:
The student newspaper of the North Idaho College, where both Discerni and Jester were freshmen, reported :
"According to police, Cameron Jester, a freshman, did not give Gloria Discerni LSD, instead it was a designer drug 5-MeO-AMT, also know as Alpha. This drug is similar to LSD but more potent and the ingredients used are more toxic. The police are awaiting the autopsy results for Discerni, task force detective Lee Brainard said. Jester was being held on attempted delivery charges to 1st District Judge John Mitchell, who was later disqualified. The case is now assigned to Judge Charles Hossack, according to court records. Jester turned in a written plea of not guilty on Dec. 6. The next hearing is scheduled for Dec. 20 at 1:30 p.m."
("Suspected overdose not from LSD". The Sentinel Online, Dec 13 2004;Vol 58(5))
December 2004:
Toxicology analysis has been completed but the results have not yet been made public. According to a reporter we contacted, "the police are now saying it wasn't LSD at all" (unverified, 25 Nov, personal comm.).

October 2004:
Pacific Northwest media coverage of a reported "LSD overdose" raised questions about the actual circumstances of the tragic death of North Idaho College student Gloria Discerni.

KXLY (Spokane, WA) reported:
"Cameron Jester, 18, added six drops of LSD to a cup of orange juice and gave it to the girl. He took acid as well. Within minutes, the girl began vomiting and slipping in and out of consciousness."

WOWT (Lincoln NE) reported:
"Records show Jesters told investigators he gave the woman a dozen doses of the hallucinogen in a drink and then let her have some of his drink, which also had a dozen doses. She quickly became ill and friends took her to the hospital."

Jester is being considered for manslaughter charges, but Kootenai County Prosecutor Bill Douglas said the charges will not be considered until after the results of toxicology tests following the Oct 18 autopsy. WOWT also reported "Police are awaiting toxicology results to determine if the drug was actually LSD or if Discerni had taken any medications or had any other medical conditions which might have contributed to her death."

Speculation on Substance Identity - Oct 2004:
To people familiar with the risk profile of LSD and other strong psychoactives, the claim of a death by "LSD overdose" seems highly unlikely. Questions have been raised as to which research chemical might be involved in Discerni's death. 5-MeO-AMT, which is active in very low doses, and often available in liquid solutions, seems a likely possibility, but this is purely speculation.

5-MeO-AMT has previously been implicated in a small number of hospitalizations and deaths. People have also reported that 5-MeO-AMT has been "sold as acid" [Example].

Another possibility is that the substance was GHB. GHB is commonly found in liquid form. Some media reports stated that Discerni began vomiting and then became unconscious after ingesting the unknown substance. This would be consistent with a GHB overdose.

Related media account: #
  1. Charges dropped in drug death: Judge wouldn't admit evidence
    by Taryn Brodwater, December 13, 2006
    © 2006, Spokesman-Review (article no longer publicly available at spokesmanreview.com)

    Prosecutors have dismissed involuntary manslaughter charges against a former North Idaho College student who was set to be tried this week for the 2004 overdose death of a classmate.

    Cameron Jester's attorney argued and a judge agreed that the involuntary manslaughter case amounted to double jeopardy because the 20-year-old previously was convicted of related drug charges.

    Gloria Discerni, 18, died after overdosing on a drug initially believed to be LSD. Authorities learned months later that the drug wasn't LSD but a "designer drug" identified as 5-MeO-AMT.

    Kootenai County Prosecutor Bill Douglas said he dismissed the involuntary manslaughter case after 1st District Judge Charles Hosack ruled that much of the evidence against Jester couldn't be used at trial.

    Prosecutors also wouldn't have been allowed to tell the jury that Jester had been convicted previously of providing the drug to Discerni.

    Douglas on Tuesday said Idaho doesn't have a law that specifically addresses prosecution of a person who provides a substance that isn't illegal but results in harm to or death of another person.

    The prosecutor said he already has spoken with local legislators about introducing a bill in the 2007 legislative session to allow for prosecution in such cases.

    Discerni's mother declined to comment on the dismissal of the case or on a separate civil suit she and her ex-husband filed against Jester.

    Linda Discerni, an Oregon school librarian, said she has been working to inform others on the dangers of drugs like the one that killed her daughter.

    She said she couldn't believe it when first told her daughter died of an LSD overdose.

    "I'm a girl of the '60s, and LSD was kind of used in experiments," Discerni said. "It's always been sort of a benevolent, experimental drug. I had never heard of anyone dying of it."

    Gloria Discerni had struggled with methamphetamine addiction, beginning the summer before her senior year in high school, Linda Discerni said.

    Her best friend was killed in a car wreck on prom night, her grandfather had died, and her parents had divorced, her mother said.

    The B-plus student and student body officer "just turned on a dime," Linda Discerni said.

    After a year of inpatient treatment, Linda Discerni said, her daughter appeared to be on the right track. She enrolled at NIC and talked about a career in interior design or another field where she could put her artistic talent to use.

    Early in the morning on Oct. 13, 2004, Linda Discerni got a call from Idaho. First it was the police, then an emergency room doctor. Her daughter was in a coma when she arrived. Two days later, she died.

    Discerni said she could imagine that on the night of the overdose, at a party just blocks from campus, her daughter may have been thinking that LSD, unlike the meth she used, was not addictive.

    "Kids that age, they're risk takers by nature and easily swayed by their peers," Linda Discerni said. "Parents just need to harp on their kids that it's plain not safe. Gloria is the perfect example, innocently thinking it was a safe drug, and it wasn't anything like that."