A Trip to Europa

01 Sep

I don’t mean the daughter of King Tyre and Zeus’ lover nor her namesake moon that spins around Jupiter. I mean the hallucinogenic drug created by Alexander Shulgin, the father of more than 200 other psychoactive chemicals. Europa, also called K2, Red X Dawn, Blaze, or Spice, is actually 2C-E or 2,5-dimethoxy-4-ethylphenethylamine.

Though often compared to LSD it is chemically different and its effects are likewise different. Each of these drugs have hallucinogenic effects but Europa seems to cause a synesthetic syndrome more frequently and more powerfully than does LSD.

Synesthesia is a medical condition in which distortion of the senses, particularly sound and vision, occurs. Those with synesthesia might see letters or numbers as colors or “see” sounds as colors or shapes or both. In his wonderful novel The Fallen, my friend T. Jefferson Parker created Homicide Detective Robbie Brownlaw who was afflicted with this condition. It’s a fascinating read.


Europa seems to simulate this medical condition. Under its influence, the visuals can be dramatic with brightly colored fractal patterns like Persian rugs or kaleidoscopes. Who can forget Lucy’s eyes in Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds? Of course, as the song title suggests, Lucy took LSD and not Europa but the effects can be similar. You know, marmalade skies can break out anywhere.


John Lennon said his inspiration for the song came from a nursery school drawing done by his son Julian that John titled Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds and that LSD had nothing to do with it. Really, John? It was the 60s after all.

Unfortunately it appears that Europa can also be deadly as a young man from Blaine, MN tragically discovered.


Posted by on September 1, 2011 in Poisons & Drugs


7 responses to “A Trip to Europa

  1. Pj Schott

    September 1, 2011 at 8:56 am



  2. Sarah

    September 2, 2011 at 5:13 pm

    hmmm I might use this in my novel- thanks!


  3. westwood

    September 5, 2011 at 6:14 am

    I encountered synesthesia once from something much less potent.. Fascinating experience, one I’m glad to have had. I was feeling taste and hearing heat.


  4. Kat Sheridan

    September 5, 2011 at 11:34 pm

    I have a sis with synesthesia, though it took us years to figure that out. She sees numbers and letters as having colors. She determines if people are compatible if the “colors” of their names are compatible. is this genetic? No one else in the family appears to have this. The closest “weirdness” is a family member with hyper sensitivity to taste (especially sour and bitter).


  5. Jude

    September 6, 2011 at 7:12 pm

    You know, as one who has several forms of synesthesia, I’d say that “afflicted” is the wrong word. It’s not an affliction–it just is.


    • D.P. Lyle, MD

      September 7, 2011 at 1:35 pm

      No insult intended but for Robbie Brownlaw it was at first troublesome and confusing, thus an affliction, but later he found it was useful in his job and it became a blessing. The patients I’ve seen with this syndrome have been divided that way too—some find it distracting and disorienting, an affliction, while others find it fun and useful and it makes them feel special, a blessing. So it can go both ways. I’m glad you feel blessed. I think I would too.


  6. Fritz Strobl MD

    September 7, 2011 at 6:44 am

    Doug, fascinating blog, as usual. Dysfunction of visual pathways & processing cause many neurologic issues. My father had a visual reflex such that when coming from a dark room to a bright room/sun he would sneeze twice. Never once, never three times. He lived to 97, so obviously not a big problem!



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