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Man admits to selling hallucinogen
pleading guilty to DXM distribution in St. Louis, Missouri
by Robert Patrick
v1.0 - Jan 17, 2008
Originally published by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (dead url)
St. Louis - A man from New York state admitted here Wednesday that he has sold an illegal hallucinogenic cough medicine ingredient to St. Louis-area residents and across the country over the Internet.

Christopher Schraud, 22, pleaded guilty in federal court in St. Louis to one count of selling a misbranded drug. That case involved a Dec. 13, 2005, sale of 250 grams to a St. Charles County customer.

Schraud faces up to 16 months in prison under federal sentencing guidelines.

He acknowledged providing dextromethorphan hydrobromide, or DXM, to customers in St. Louis, St. Louis and St. Charles counties and Crawford County in 2005 and 2006.

DXM is an ingredient in some cough and cold medicines that causes euphoria and hallucinations if taken in large doses. It also can cause brain damage, seizures, irregular heartbeats and death.

Schraud admitted that he bought DXM in 25-kilogram plastic barrels from a New Jersey chemical company that got it from India. Schraud repackaged it in plastic bags and sold it in sizes as small as 0.1 gram through his website.

He also admitted that he should have known that some of his customers, who used home addresses or post office boxes and had e-mail accounts containing names like "mushroommuncher" and "smokecrackhailsanta," were ingesting the drug for its euphoric effect, according to court documents and testimony.

U.S. Attorney Catherine Hanaway said the customers weren't trying very hard to hide their intent.

The DXM was not manufactured for human use or in compliance with Food and Drug Administration requirements, prosecutors said.

Hanaway said investigators believe that Schraud sold more than 150 kilos online to customers numbering in the "high hundreds" or "low thousands."

Schraud's lawyer, Steve Welby, said the number wasn't that high.

Welby said Schraud's website had a warning that the DXM was to be used only for legitimate purposes, like scientific research, and that he did have research customers. Customers also had to fill out a form listing a legitimate scientific use.

Schraud was running the business out of his father's house in Pleasant Valley, N.Y.

"I think he started with the best of intentions, and things just went in the wrong direction," Welby said.

Investigators discovered Schraud's operation while investigating a man who made pills out of Schraud's DXM and sold them in East St. Louis-area clubs, telling people it was the drug Ecstasy.

Deaths have been linked to overdoses of DXM, but Hanaway said prosecutors do not suspect Schraud's sales of being connected to any.

A government study released last week found that about 3.1 million Americans ages 12-25, or about 5 percent, had used over-the-counter cough and cold medicines to get high at least once. That number is comparable to use of LSD and higher than that of methamphetamine, the National Survey of Drug Use and Health found.

DXM abuse has prompted Congress to try to restrict bulk sales.

rpatrick@post-dispatch.com | 314-621-5154