2C-E was one of the hundreds of drugs synthesised by Alexander Shulgin, who was known as the ‘godfather of ecstasy’. Photograph: Scott Houston/Corbis
Police investigating a mass intoxication of a homeopathy conference in Germany with psychedelic drugs have said they still do not know nearly a week later whether it was an accident or an experiment gone wrong.
Emergency services called to the meeting in Handeloh, south of Hamburg, found a group of 29 alternative healers hallucinating, staggering around, groaning and rolling on the grass.
Police spokesman Lars Nicklesen said on Thursday that investigators believe a psychedelic drug was to blame but remain unsure of how or why it was taken. The delegates are now all out out of physical danger, he said, but there may yet be legal consequences for the healers in the course of the ongoing criminal investigation.
“We’re now questioning the delegates and awaiting the results of blood and urine tests,” he said. “We still don’t know if they took the drugs on purpose. The question is whether they want to talk about it; they have the right to remain silent.”
Nicklesen added that police suspect the group took 2C-E, known in Germany as Aquarust, a drug which heightens perceptions of colours and sounds and in higher doses triggers hallucinations, psychosis and severe cramps.
Germany’s health ministry banned the drug last year due to its highly addictive nature and unknown side effects.
The homeopaths’ meeting – billed as a “further education seminar” – was suspended shortly after it started when delegates began experiencing psychotic hallucinations, cramps, racing heartbeats and shortage of breath. One of them alerted the emergency services.
Alarmed by the sight of so many grown men and women rolling around on the floor, the first fire crews on the scene called for backup, triggering a major incident response. A total of 160 police, fire crews, and ambulance staff and a helicopter were involved in the four hour operation to treat the group.
“It was great that none of the people were in mortal danger in the end”, said fire service spokesman Matthias Köhlbrandt. “The leading emergency doctor at the scene believed they would all recover without lasting damage.”
Unsure of what they had taken, medical staff gave the homeopaths oxygen on site before transferring them to seven different nearby hospitals.
The Hamburger Abendblatt newspaper reported that in one clinic, the Asklepios in Harburg, hallucinating patients had to be strapped down to a bed to prevent them causing danger to others. “They were completely off their heads,” a spokesman for the clinic said.
Staff at the conference centre were unable to shed light on the mystery as they had all gone home at the time of the incident. “We’re absolutely shocked, we’ve only had good experiences in the past with the group,” a spokeswoman for the Tanzheimat Inzmühlen conference centre told the Hamburger Abendblatt.
The Association of German Healing Practitioners was quick to distance itself from the incident and emphasised that hallucinogenic drugs had no place in the study of homeopathy. “If I find out that one of our members took part [in what happened in Handeloh] then they will be excluded from the association,” Heinz Kropmanns, the association president, told NDR.
The drug 2C-E was one of hundreds synthesised by the American chemist Alexander Shulgin. The scientist, who died in 2014, and had become known as the godfather of ecstasy after he introduced MDMA to psychotherapists on the US west coast in the late 1970s.
Thanks to Kebmodee for bringing this to the It’s Interesting community.