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2C-B: How It Affects the Brain

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Also called Nexus, 2C-B is a psychedelic drug that is used as a recreational drug in the United States and other parts of the world. The psychedelic is in a class of drugs called phenethylamine drug that was first synthesized by Alexander Shulgin in 1974. It was created alongside several other similar drugs called the 2C family, most of which have psychedelic effects. Shulgin tested the drug and reported many of his findings in his book, PiHKAL: A Chemical Love Story. He originally intended this and other similar drugs to be used in therapeutic settings, and many therapists in Europe began using it for treatment. The drug was administered to patients in order to help them lower their defenses and unlock painful memories. 

Soon, recreational users were drawn to it for its potential positive effects. Most notably, it gained a reputation as an aphrodisiac or a drug that was able to enhance sexual experiences. It grew in popularity in the club scene, where it was used to increase sociability, similarly to MDMA. In the United States, 2C-B became a scheduled drug in 1995, and it’s currently categorized as a schedule I drug, which means it has high abuse potential with no approved medical uses. The drug is taken orally, rectally, intranasally, and it’s typically sold as pressed tablets, similar to MDMA.

How It Works in the Brain

The 2C-B drug works in a way that’s similar to other psychedelics because it seems to affect serotonin. However, unlike other psychedelics, 2C-B has a very low effect on the 5-HT2A serotonin receptor. Most psychedelics act as an agonist at this receptor, which means they bind to it and activate its effects. 

However, 2C-B may only slightly activate the receptor, and may even act as an antagonist, or a drug that binds to the receptor and blocks it. In some cases, the drug works on 5-HT2C, a different serotonin receptor. Serotonin is one of several “feel-good chemicals” that have a variety of functions in the central nervous system, including boosting your mood, regulating depression and anxiety, and stimulating nausea. 
2C-B also has an effect on another feel-good chemical: dopamine. The drug seems to increase dopamine release in the brain. Dopamine is closely tied to mood, reward, and excitement. When it’s released in significant amounts, you may feel excited, alert, and even anxious. The drug has also been shown to act as a monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI), a type of drug that has antidepressant effects. Like other psychedelics and members of the 2C family, 2C-B’s effects on the brain aren’t fully understood.

Effects of 2C-B

2C-B is often described as having effects that are similar to MDMA and LSD. Low doses of the drug cause an increase in sociability, empathy, positive mood, and mild psychedelic effects, similar to MDMA. At higher doses, it can produce powerful psychedelic effects like hallucinations, color enhancement, and open-eye visuals. It’s often sought out for its positive effects on mood, libido, and empathy. When it comes to sexual enhancement, it’s said to increase sexual thoughts and desire while simultaneously causing a tingling sensation that enhances physical, sexual experiences. 

The tingling sensation is sometimes described as an unpleasant and uncomfortable sensation that’s similar to when a limb falls asleep. This is part of what psychedelic users call “body load” or a range of nebulous perceived effects on the body. Drugs that cause a heavy body load are generally avoided. 

The drug can cause some other neutral or negative effects, including pupil dilation, nausea, vomiting, confusion, paranoia, muscle tension, insomnia, and chills. In very high doses, the drug can cause tachycardia and increased heart rate. Some users report that the drug can be unpredictable. The same dose can create a pleasant experience on one occasion and an uncomfortable one in a separate session. The drug can also be unpredictable because it’s illicit, and black market trade is unregulated.

Is it Dangerous?

Since it was first used in therapeutic settings and then in party settings, there have been no reported deaths attributed to 2C-B. However, there have been a few deaths associated with mistaken identity. Drugs in the 2C family often have similar chemical and street names with other more potent chemicals. In many cases, an appropriate dose of a chemical like 2C-B is much larger than other illicit drugs. 

When a user takes a potent drug, thinking it’s 2C-B, they can experience a deadly overdose. Because of this, illicit drugs are inherently dangerous because they are unpredictable, in general. 2C-B itself has been sold as MDMA to people that didn’t know what they were taking; however, most people that take 2C-B seek it out specifically. 

Like other psychedelics, it doesn’t seem to cause dependence or addiction in significant numbers. Though it might be habit-forming in people that enjoy its positive effects, it’s negative effects may prevent the reinforcement required to cause a severe substance use disorder. It also doesn’t appear to cause chemical dependence in the way other illicit drugs can. 

The drug hasn’t been extensively studied. The lethal dose of 2C-B is unknown but is most likely several times higher than an average dose. In some people, the drug can cause potentially harmful side effects like excited delirium, seizures, and hyperthermia, that need medical treatment. Other effects, like tachycardia, can cause dangerous complications in people with heart conditions. 

Why Seek Addiction Treatment?

Though 2C-B doesn’t have a high dependence liability, it can be habit-forming in some people. The abuse of illicit drugs could be dangerous, leading to more severe substance use disorder. 

Addiction is a chronic disease that gets worse over time. If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction or substance use, it’s important to seek help before it can cause severe consequences like long-term medical issues. Learn more about addiction and how it can be treated to start taking steps toward lasting recovery today. 

Sources

Dean, V., Stellpflug, S. J., Burnett, A. M., & Engebretsen, K. M. (2013, March 15). 2C or Not 2C: Phenethylamine Designer Drug Review. from https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s13181-013-0295-x

Gilmore, J. (2017, December 21). Pihkal: A Chemical Love Story. from https://www.wired.com/1993/02/pihkal-a-chemical-love-story/

Mayo Clinic. (2019, September 12). An option if other antidepressants haven't helped. from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/in-depth/maois/art-20043992

Scaccia, A. (2017, May 18). Serotonin: What You Need to Know – healthline.com. from https://www.healthline.com/health/mental-health/serotonin

ScienceDirect. (2012). 2C-B. from https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/biochemistry-genetics-and-molecular-biology/2c-b

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