South Dakota authorities are warning students and colleges about a synthetic, hallucinogenic drug that could be mistaken for tap water.
The South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation is looking into the state's first confirmed report of the drug known as 25i, which in its liquid form is clear and colorless.
"I think it's a scary thing because it looks like water," said Sara Rabern, spokeswoman for the Division of Criminal Investigation. "Someone could pour it into a beverage, or someone could drink it not knowing what it is."
Rabern said law enforcement encountered the drug in the southeastern part of the state but wouldn't give more detail about the location, citing an ongoing investigation. Police spokesman Sam Clemens said the drug has not reached Sioux Falls.
Lt. George Rice of the University of South Dakota police department said officers haven't had any contact with the drug on campus.
"We are aware of 25i and our officers are always watching out for this type of drug, as well as any others," Rice said.
According the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the first encounter law enforcement had with 25i, also known as NBOMe, occurred in June 2011. The hallucinogenic drug, which is often sold online, was linked to at least 19 deaths of people between ages 15 to 29 between March 2012 and August 2013.
"When kids are buying this stuff they don't know what they are getting, especially with synthetics because you are dealing with so many chemicals," said DEA spokeswoman Karin Caito.
The deaths prompted the DEA to make the drug a schedule I controlled substance. The drug comes in liquid and powder. Similar to LSD, in powder form the drug is sold on sheets of blotting paper. It can be snorted, injected or mixed with food. Like LSD the drug causes hallucinations, disorientation and violent behavior.
Like any controlled substance, Caito said, the DEA will work hard to find the sellers in the community and the people bringing it in.
South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley last week warned college campuses and students to be aware of the latest synthetic drug to reach the state.
"Schools, community members and parents need to be aware of the dangers created by the ever changing drug landscape in South Dakota," Jackley said. "These substances are extremely addictive and create both public safety and health risks."
Rabern said the Attorney General's Office is countering the drug's sudden appearance through education.
"Part of the plan is to monitor that area to see if it comes up again," she said. "More so, it's the educational aspect we're focusing on. Making sure parents, students and law enforcement are aware of it."