Gordon Tokumatsu/Scott Spiro
Authorities say the apartment raided Sunday night by LAPD officers was strategically located near several college campuses and served as a distribution point for a dangerous hallucinogen known as "DMT." Gordon Tokumatsu reports from Van Nuys for the NBC4 News at 5 on Monday, June 23, 2014.
Officers encountered a naked, screaming man when they responded to a disturbance call at a San Fernando Valley apartment that authorities later determined was being used to manufacture a powerful hallucinogenic drug often referred to as "Businessman's LSD."
Five Los Angeles Police Department officers, responding to the report late Sunday night from a neighbor, said they felt ill after they arrived at the fume-filled apartment in the 14000 block of Sherman Way in Van Nuys. Officers found a naked man, screaming and acting in a "bizarre" manner, according to the LAPD.
"They immediately started feeling light-headed and started getting headaches," said LAPD Detective Ernie Eskridge. "They exited the location because it appeared it was a narcotics lab."
The officers were treated and released, Eskridge said. The individual found at the residence also was hospitalized in good condition, police said.
Timers, scales, solvents, jars containing what appeared to be a brown liquid, plastic bags with mimosa root bark and other items used to manufacture the drug DMT were found in the apartment, according to police. Dimethyltryptamine (DMT), extracted from the mimosa root bark, is a psychedelic compound that can produce brief, but vivid and powerful, hallucinations.
DMT -- known as the "Businessman's LSD" because of the short duration of the drug's mind-altering effects -- is smoked, ingested orally or injected, causing users to lose awareness of their surroundings, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration. Its active chemical is found in South American plants and the drug was featured in the 2010 movie, "DMT: The Spirit Molecule."
"You don't hear it that often," said Detective Keith Honore. "We see it about once a year.
"It's a drug that's produced from the root of the mimosa plant. That's legal to purchase, you can actually buy (the root) on the internet, but to actually reduce it and make it into drug is against the law."
Workers in protective hazardous materials suits carried items out of the apartment. The process of extraction can be dangerous because of the solvents involved, according to authorities.
"It's a pretty good size operation for a DMT lab," Honore said. "They're usually very small, and they make enough for themselves. It looks like he was making enough to sell on the street."
The drug, popular on college campuses, sells for about $100 per gram, according to investigators.
"You're talking about a drug-induced psychosis," said Albert Melena of the nonprofit San Fernando Valley Partnership.
A man who did not want to be identified told NBC4 that DMT is "supposed to be LSD on steroids."
Sherman Way, closed during the investigation, was reopened at about 5 a.m. Evacuated residents were allowed back into their apartments early Monday.
The 37-year-old man was arrested and booked on suspicion of felony manufacture of narcotics. Bond was set at $75,000.