Cloud Nine, a kind of e-cigarette liquid that people have been using to get high, is the latest nightmare drug making the rounds, in the process getting a bunch of TV news reporters extremely excited. A recent NBC Nightly News episode called Cloud Nine "legal, unregulated, and readily available at convenience stores" while informing viewers that the drug has sent almost two dozen young people to the hospital in Michigan.
Despite the entertainment value of freaking out over the possibility that there's a new way to get loaded, these sorts of reports don't contain much actual information for parents—it's scary, and your kids are probably already addicted to it. What else do you need to know? Well, it might be good to note that it's a stretch to call it "absolutely deadly," as the segment above does, considering no one has died from it.
Still from the NBC Nightly News Report
So what's the deal with this new drug? First, we should note that the term "Cloud Nine" is a little like the term "trail mix"—a name for a general category, not a single product. It caught on two years ago when the Cloud Nine label was being slapped on an herbal synthetic product, and it might have added relevance today, since e-cigarette fans compete to have the biggest clouds. They're not the same thing, though. Whatever the formula is that's been labeled "Cloud Nine" in Michigan lately, people are having a bad time on it, and some counties have responded by banning the drug.
The Detroit Free Press received a list of the drug's effects from Westland Deputy Police Chief Todd Adams that included "agitation, paranoia, hallucinations, chest pain, increased pulse, high blood pressure, and suicidal thinking/behavior," which is an odd range of effects for a recreational drug to have. I personally would not be interested in such an experience. Thankfully, there are explanations online about why the kids these days are putting it in their magic drug wands and shooting drug vapor into their young brains.
Fortunately, you can always turn to the internet if you want information on drugs. A redditor who goes by Aircoft did extensive homework about Cloud Nine. He or she has been posting about Cloud Nine e-cigarette liquid for months, and judging from the Michigan-centric news links in Aircoft's posts, the Cloud Nine in question appears to be the same stuff that's making people sick.
Aircoft has provided dosage suggestions prospective users who want to smoke the stuff: "0.05ml-0.1ml (a few hits) of pure Cloud Nine," or alternatively: "mix 80 percent Cloud Nine and 20 percent flavored e-liquid, such as one of my favorites, 'Pluto' by Mister-E-Liquid," for improved flavor. Aircoft has also speculates about what's in it at the molecular level: "The active ingredient is a chemical of the JWH-family, such as JWH-018. I also more recently am thinking it contains 2C-B as well." In other words, Aircoft finds the experience the be reminiscent of both cannabis and ecstasy analogues.
Aircoft has even done some detective work on where the plain bottles with "Cloud Nine" on them come from. When a gas station stopped carrying it, he or she asked the attendant for the supplier's contact information. The reply was, "It's not like I can just give you the guy's number."
Aircoft also points out that after Cloud Nine disappeared from some stores, it was replaced by a similar product dubbed "Hookah Relax," the liquid that was banned in one Michigan county at the same time as Cloud Nine. For all the furor over them, these products might be the work of a single chemist who is constantly working on new ways to modify the chemical formula of recreational drugs in order to circumvent laws—standard practice for the makers of legal highs.
One story about Cloud Nine by MLive quoted a government official talking about how kids put the stuff in sports drinks, but the article doesn't mention that this is a terrible, terrible idea. Aircoft tried drinking Cloud Nine, and the results sound terrifying: "It was comparable to a deep mushroom trip, and it involved throwing up and dizziness, along with a very intense body high and deep mind high."
News articles about drugs like Cloud Nine often put reporters in an awkward position: Generally, they just parrot whatever they're told by police and other authority figures, but often those people are either uninformed about how and why users are taking the drug, or they're committed to scaring as many people as possible. Anonymous internet users aren't a reliable source of information either, of course—in one post Aircoft says "Cloud 9 is great"—but they might know more about the composition and effects of new illicit drugs than anyone likely to be contacted by a respectable media outlet.
One thing seems certain, however: Even if you're the kind of person who likes drugs, you shouldn't be putting chemicals in your body if you don't know what they are, and you definitely shouldn't be drinking something that's designed to be smoked. Cloud Nine may not be deadly in the sense that it will kill you right away, it seems dangerous and stupid to ingest it. But if you absolutely must, at least do a little research first.
Follow Mike Pearl on Twitter.