Everything comes in waves of popularity — music, fashion, slang.

Same with drugs.

We're in festival season, and drugs are nearly as big a part as music or fashion.

The most popular drug at festivals, after cannabis and alcohol, is molly — aka MDMA or ecstasy. And no wonder. On MDMA, you can feel like a disco butterfly in a safe cocoon, with "bad trips" and worldly problems a mile away.

But a new drug is hugging its way onto the festival circuit, a drug described as a "healthier molly" — 2CB.

Sold as a powder or a pill, 2CB may be the most popular drug you've never have heard of. It lasts about as long as molly — four to six hours — costs about the same and feels similar, although trippier. And it supposedly less risky for your brain.

Much of the rest of the world has already heard of it. It's been called "the latest drug to sweep latin America's party scene" and the "drug taking over the UK's clubs."

Unlike molly, 2CB lacks a catchy name. Some dealers call 2CB Nexus, but the name hasn't stuck.

But give 2CB time; this random combo of letters and number might become as famous as some other once-random-looking sequences, such as LSD or THC.

For now, to remember the name 2CB, think of the name "2CB" as a meditation on presence, an inspirational quote on a sorority girl's wall:

To see — be. 


Like molly, 2CB has been called a "love drug" a "sex drug" and a "cuddle drug." If 2CB were a piece of clothing, it would be velvet. If 2CB were an animal, it would lack fangs and claws. Back when 2CB was legal, it was sold in a packaging with lovemaking couples. In fact, after molly was outlawed in 1985, 2CB was openly sold as a substitute, until 2CB too was outlawed in the mid-90s.

Today, in our more health-conscious times, 2CB is growing more popular because it doesn't have a "bio-load" — meaning, unlike molly, you can take it over and over again without building a tolerance or mucking up your brain chemistry (allegedly).


2CB (often written 2C-B) was discovered in the 1970s by famous chemist Sasha Shulgin, who also discovered MDMA. Shulgin called 2CB one of the "magic half dozen" of his favorite drugs he found.

The molecule is a variation on mescaline, the active ingredient in peyote, a psychedelic drug traditionally used by Native Americans. But 2CB is a much milder, more "friendly" high than peyote. At low doses, it's often classified as an "entactogen," same as molly.

For most of its life, 2CB has been a friend only of dedicated stoners and psychonauts. A while back, 2CB became one of the most sought-after drugs on the DarkNet, the semi-secret part of the Internet that law enforcement struggles to control.

But 2CB has only recently found its way out of the dark corners and into the mainstream.

"It's becoming more and more popular, " a street dealer called padizzle said on Dreaddit, which is like Reddit for the DarkNet.

By 2014, 2CB had become popular in a few European countries. In Spain, in 2014, 2CB was more popular than Ritalin; in Ireland it was as popular as ketamine; according to the Global Drug Survey.

By this year, 2CB's popularity had skyrocketed: 11 percent of Global Drug Survey respondents had taken 2CB sometime in their lives, making 2CB more popular, worldwide, than more famous drugs like heroin, crack, meth and DMT.

And 2CB has (almost) hit pop culture, too. Kanye rapped that he was "tweaking off that 2CB," and Nipsey Hussle said he was "cruising solo in my 2CB."


Why the upswing? Probably because 2CB is sold as "similar to molly."

Now, there may never be a more popular festival drug than molly. Molly — at least in its pure form as MDMA — is a very smooth drug. But festival folks are getting the memo that, outside "Limitless" and "Brave New World," there's no perfect drug.

Molly's risks are probably overstated. But several heavy users we've talked to say repeated big doses messed with their mojo.

"I'll never be the same," a guy named "Nick," in his mid-20s, told us recently. "I mean, I ate a lot: two or three nights a week in college, up to like a gram." (Taking a gram of molly is like drinking a case of beer; it'll fuck you up all kinds of ways.)

"Nick" is a rare case. The vast majority of molly users never take that much molly. But even occasional molly users know about the hangover. Molly floods your brain with serotonin, which is to the brain what Valvoline is to an engine. The next day, the serotonin levels drop, and the brain can seize up and sputter. Depression kicks in.

Unlike molly, 2CB won't deplete your serotonin. So no brain hangover. And 2CB won't build up a tolerance.

"You can trip for days in a row and redose as much as you like," a user called samwhiskey wrote on Dreaddit. "2CB is really great." 

[Hosts on a Dutch public TV show, DrugsLab, tested 2CB and loved it.]


If you're going to try it (and we're not saying you should), know that 2C-B is not a twin of molly. 2CB is like if molly and LSD had a baby. And, like any baby, 2CB looks more like the mother or the father depending on the light.

Another name for 2CB is "five-hour acid." Because, at high doses, there are crazy visual hallucinations; you can have bizarre thoughts; you can lose track of your shit and your backpack; there can be paranoia (are those lights looking at me?). Basically: you can freak the fuck out.

Plus, while 2CB is thought to be safer than molly, there's little research on its long-term effects. Like other psychedelics, there are several reports on Reddit that 2CB causes Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder, where the crazy visuals follow you after the trip is supposed to be over. Like, you'll just be driving to Taco Bell and some fractals will burst into your visual field, or you'll be at the supermarket and the cashier starts to look like a cartoon.

Like MDMA, 2CB increases your heart rate, and some users report headaches in large doses.

And because it's seen as being safe, 2CB could open itself up to abuse, as people take it day after day and become dependent.


One of the fascinating things about the world of drugs is the incredible variety. Unlike, say, wine, where there's only one compound that gets you fucked up — alcohol — the world of drugs has hundreds, thousands of active molecules, each with a subtly different high.

2CB is just one of those thousand brain-bending compounds, perhaps no better or worse than any of the other alphabet soup of tripsters like 2CI, 2CT7, DOM or 4-ACO-DMT, to name just four.

But the DarkNet allows a greater variety of people access to a greater variety of drugs. And so, mathematically speaking, it's likely that there are better drugs for each person than the ones they're currently taking. No reason, for example, why a person should stick with alcohol and molly in a world where, maybe for them, a less-risky combo might be GHB and 2CB.

It's all so delightfully complicated and risky and full of promise.

And this festival season, it's too early to tell if 2CB is just a passing fad, like bell bottoms or the word "fire." Or if the larger world will always remember: 

To see — be.