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Newsgroups: alt.psychoactives,alt.drugs
From: bwhite@oucsace.cs.ohiou.edu (William E. White )
Subject: Tropane alkaloids (was Re: jimson)
Message-ID: 
Date: Sat, 1 Oct 1994 18:28:47 GMT

[quoted text deleted -cak]

"Datura" is a genus, not a chemical.  The Datura genus includes species
such as D. stramonium (jimsonweed), D. inoxia, D. metel, ... all of
which are similarly toxic.  The active alkaloids in the Datura species
are the same as those in Hyoscyanimus niger (sp?) and Atropa belladonna,
namely the tropane alkaloids.
The tropanes include, primarily, atropine and scopolamine.  They are
antimuscarinics, which means they block acetylcholine receptors of the
muscarinic subtype (the other subtype, nicotinic, is not affected by
tropanes).  There is some evidence that scopolamine is more psychoactive,
possibly because it crosses the blood-brain barrier more readily.

The muscarinic receptors (of which there are three identified subtypes, 
M1, M2, and M3) are the receptors of parasympathetic activity, which
when stimulated cause:
	- decreased cardiac (heart) contraction rate
	- decreased cardiac contraction force
	- vasodilation
	- increased exocrine secretion
	- reduction of intraocular pressure
	- constriction of the pupil
	(and others)
Being antimuscarinics, tropanes tend to produce the exact opposite effects.

Tropanes are used medically to dilate the pupils, decrease acid secretion
in the stomach, reduce nausea (especially that caused by motion sickness),
and such.  One commercial tropane drug is "Donnatal" (sp?) which is really
nothing more than belladonna extract.  Another is "TransDerm/Scop", a
scopolamine patch for motion sickness.

When used at higher than normal doses, tropanes produce some rather extreme
psychoactive effects -- disorientation, confusion, hallucinations, delusions,
panic, etc.  The interesting thing about this class of hallucinogens is
that the person taking the drug is often absolutely convinced that the
hallucinations/delusions are, in every sense, real; furthermore, he or she
may attempt to interact with them (and perceive normal response).  This
can range from amusing to dangerous.  There is often a severe distortion
of position/kinetic sense leading many to say they feel like they were
in free-fall or flying.

The really dangerous thing about tropanes is that they have rather strong
peripheral effects in comparison to their psychoactive effects.  The
lethal dose / effective dose ratio is dangerously low; furthermore, the
strength of tropanes in wild plants ranges considerably.  The Datura
genus may contain alkaloids which have neurotoxic effects, in addition to
the tropane alkaloids.

Interesting trivia bit #1: QNB (quinuclidinyl benzilate), a potent 
antimuscarinic with a somewhat larger lethal/effective dose window
(possibly due to less activity at the M2 receptor, which is the cardiac
receptor), was stockpiled by the army for use as a chemical weapon.  The
movie "Jacob's Ladder" was (very loosely) based on this.

Interesting trivia bit #2: tropanes were (and still are, in some places)
popular "folk" hallucinogens; typically the people preparing them had
considerable experience with plants and were able to get the dosage
right.  In Europe during the inquisition and burning times, the Church
(which prior to this had pretty much left folk culture to itself) became
aware of these and lumped them in with the rest of low magic, i.e., as
heresy (which it really wasn't, but that's another story); furthermore,
the hallucinatory images (such as flying) may have contributed to the
image of the "gothic" (Christian heretic) witch.
It is hypothesized (support for this view is somewhat lacking) that the
preparations, being topical, were often applied to a mucous membrane,
in particular to the vagina and vaginal walls, using a broomstick as an
applicator, thus the "witch riding the broomstick" image.  Whether this
is factual or complete bunk is up for debate.

In any case, stay away from tropanes; they are far too dangerous.