Indiana Coalition Cautions Against Deadly Synthetic N-BOMe

High school sophomore Sam Motsay played on the basketball team and knew he could get drug tested. 
That’s why the 16-year-old tried the synthetic drug N-BOMe for the first time this past Mother’s Day —the substance does not show in a test. It was the last choice he made in his short life. 

Randy Miller, executive director of Drug Free Marion County, is trying to warn adults and parents about this latest synthetic substance without sensationalizing it, which sometimes attracts teens to it even more. 

“It’s one of the things we learned over time and tried to be careful with. We want adults to know about this stuff and you want to educate kids, but kids sometimes hear these messages different than adults,” he explained. “A few years ago, when K2 and Spice hit, we strategically decided not to go out and start telling kids about it. Even though all the news is all bad, there was a big spike in use especially among youth.” 

N-BOMe ((known commonly as N-BOMB or N-BOM), 25i, or “Smiles,” is a Class 2 synthetic psychedelic with effects similar to LSD and ecstasy. Miller noted that an 18-year-old living outside of Marion County also died after taking the drug back in March and about two dozen have died across the country after taking N-BOMe this year. 

“As with all synthetic drugs, you don’t know what your reaction will be to them. It affects everyone differently,” Miller said. “Obviously when you have teenagers dying it’s bad enough. In this case you have kids who are trying it for the first time.” 

Miller said the tragic situation brought up a related issue: is random drug testing in schools and sport programs really worth it? Kids are “skirting the issue,” and trying drugs that can go undetected, which sometimes can be even more dangerous and deadly than drugs that are detected. 

“They didn’t affect his ability to play, instead they took his life. That’s some pretty scary stuff,” Miller said of Motsay. “These are situations where kids are just using it and dying. It’s not dissimilar in that fashion from inhalants, which can be equally as deadly the first time or thousandth time you use it. That’s especially disconcerting — kids are just trying this stuff and they don’t get a second chance.”

Miller’s coalition has a fact sheet on N-BOMe available for parents. He said they continue to deliver the message that every drug can be potentially dangerous and some can be fatal. 

“This way you don’t get into conversations like ‘Oh, this one isn’t as bad as the other.’ It’s better to leave it alone so you aren’t testing the market,” Miller said. 

He said the key to drug prevention is communication.

“Parents should communicate with kids and each other. Find out what’s going on in their lives so they can be linked in to what the kids know and talk about as much as they can,” Miller explained. “On a lot of levels, that’s how this information is getting shared, via social media. That’s how [Motsay] found out about it [N-BOMe].”