LSD Did Not Kill Her, but It Looks Like Prohibition Did



Remember the West Virginia man who was charged with murder in March after consuming LSD with his wife because it supposedly killed her? As I said at the time, the charge was puzzling not just because Todd Honaker had no intention of harming his wife, let alone killing her, but also because this would be the first documented case of a fatal LSD overdose in history. Last June I noted that Honaker was still behind bars, along with Chad Renzelman, a college buddy who had supplied the drug, even though West Virginia's Office of the Chief Medical Examiner had not determined what caused Renee Honaker's death. It turns out that the drug Todd and Reneee Honaker took was not LSD after all; according to WSAZ, a TV station in Charleston, it was an NBOMe compound.

Exactly which NBOMe compound they took is not clear, but Erowid lists seven fatalities reportedly linked to 25I-NBOMe, which is often sold on blotter paper and passed off as LSD. The website says the psychedelic, which was first synthesized inb 2003, "has nearly no history of human use prior to 2010, when it first became available online." Erowid warns: "25-I-NBOMe is extremely potent. It should not be snorted! Insufflating 25-I-NBOMe appears to have led to several deaths in the last year and a number of hospitalizations."

The Charleston Gazette-Mail reports that Renee Honaker, who was 30 years old, "fell to the floor, began convulsing and died" after taking two hits. According to WSAZ, "The defense argues that Renee's prescriptions mixed with alcohol may be to blame." But assuming she was killed by an overdose of an unfamiliar, little-tested substitute for nontoxic LSD, her death is yet another example of how prohibition makes drug use more dangerous. It creates a black market where consumers have a hard time verifying that they are getting what they think they are getting, and it steers people away from relatively safe, well-studied drugs toward novel ones with unknown hazards. Instead of charging her husband with murder, Roane County Prosecuting Attorney Josh Downey should reflect on his own role in enforcing laws that lead to entirely predictable tragedies like this one.

[Thanks to Chip Smith for the tip.]