Johnny Lewis and the Danger of “Smiles”

Word came down last week that Sons of Anarchists actor Johnny Lewis was found dead outside a Los Feliz home. The 81-year-old homeowner, Catherine Davis, was also found dead inside the home.

As details came in, the story became even more disturbing.

Lewis was reportedly renting a room from Ms. Davis. On Wednesday, Lewis showed up at the residence and introduced himself to the neighbors. After leaving for about 15 minutes, he hopped a fence into the neighbor’s yard and began fighting with them and a painter who was working on the property. The neighbor told the LA Times “that he, his wife and the painter struggled with Lewis, but he was unfazed by the blows. It was like “hitting him with a fly swatter.” They finally were able to get away from Lewis by barricading themselves in their home and calling the police.

When the police arrived, they found Lewis dead in the driveway. It appeared that he had either fallen or jumped off the Davis’s roof. Inside the home they found Ms. Davis. According to the LA Coroner, she had died of “blunt force trauma and strangulation.” The home appeared ransacked and  also revealed that Lewis had allegedly bludgeoned and dismembered his landlady’s cat.

Johnny Lewis was no stranger to trouble lately. He was arrested three times between 2011 and 2012. In January 2012, he struck two men in the head with a bottle while engaged in a fight. He pleaded no contest to charges of assault with a deadly weapon in the case. The second arrest came about six weeks later, with Lewis accused of attempting to break into a woman’s home. He pleaded no contest this time as well. A probation official expressed that he was “very concerned for the well-being of not only the community but that of the defendant”, that he suffered from mental health issues as well as chemical dependency, and that Lewis would “continue to be a threat to any community he may reside in”. Nonetheless, Lewis was released from a Los Angeles County, California, jail in mid-September 2012.

Now sources are telling the L.A. Times that detectives believe Lewis was on a synthetic drug known as 2C-I or “smiles.”

 What is 2C-I?

2C-I, also known as “smiles” is an synthetic hallucinogen. It belongs to a class of drugs called phenethylamines. Phenethylamines are a family of chemicals structurally similar to the amphetamines.


An amphetamine molecule contains a ring and a side chain. By changing the side chain and adding different substitutions on the rings, chemists have made a number of different drugs with slightly differing effects. For example, metamphetamine (crystal meth) has a “methyl” side change. Other drugs made in a similar way include MDMA (“Ecstacy”) and methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MPDV) (often used in “bath salts”).



In the 2C compounds, chemists make different substitutions on the rings and add an iodine molecule.

The changes in structure lead to changes in the way it works. The substitutions that make 2C-I create an amphetamine with more euphoric, psychedelic and introspective effects.

According to Live Science, the drug’s effects include “auditory and visual hallucinations, along with feelings of giddiness, relaxation and empathy.” Smile’s effects have been called a combination of MDMA and LSD, only far more potent.

2C-I is sold as a powder or tablet, and is often mixed with chocolate or candy to stabilize it.

Side effects of 2C-I can include nausea and vomiting. An amphetamine-like rush can be followed by intense auditory and visual hallucinations (which can be quite frightening). The effect can last from hours to days.

2-CI overdoses have been known to cause seizures, kidney failure, and fatally high blood pressure.

Since the drugs are made illegally, they may vary in potency from batch to batch and may be easily confused with other, similar drugs. This make the risk of overdose or of having a “bad trip” more likely.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse says 2C drugs have been on the illicit drug market since 1998. Because they are amphetamine-based, they are “Schedule I” controlled substances, considered illegal.

Unfortunately,2C-I is currently invisible to drug tests which have recently been updated to discover Bath Salts (MDPV) and other new substances. This has made them popular among high school and college-age kids.

Some abusers are publishing “trip reports” on YouTube.

Michele R. Berman, M.D. was Clinical Director of The Pediatric Center, a private practice on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. from 1988-2000, and was named Outstanding Washington Physician by Washingtonian Magazine in 1999. She was a medical internet pioneer having established one of the first medical practice websites in 1997. Dr. Berman also authored a monthly column for Washington Parent Magazine.

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