Reported LSD-Related Death was Not LSD
5-MeO-AMT is Confirmed by Toxicology
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
SummaryIn 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.
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 2½ 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: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."
"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."
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.