Date: Wed, 06 Apr 1994 18:14:54 -0400 (EDT) From: Nick Piazza
Subject: Article you requested Natural and Other Legal Intoxicants Nick J. Piazza University of Nebraska-Lincoln Carson Mansfield Marymount College of Kansas Abstract Efforts to control, prevent, and educate the public about drug abuse have tended to focus on a few well-known intoxicants such as PCP, LSD, marijuana, opiates, amphetamines, and cocaine. Any nonmedical use of these substances is generally considered to be illicit and abuse. There are, however, a number of substances which are less well-known and frequently not controlled under current social policies. The authors feel couselors should be aware of the psychoactive potential of these substances. Substances included in the present article include: wild lettuce, ololiuqui, atropine, scopolamine, the prickly poppy, catnip, dextromethorphan, and nutmeg. Natural and Other Legal Intoxicants There have been enormous expenditures of time, money, and effort to control and eliminate such commonly used psychoactive substances as marijuana, PCP, and LSD. Public policy is based on the belief that the penalties for using an illegal substance will deter use or experimentation. It has been the authors' experience, however, that some enterprising users are merely turning to obscure, lesser known substances which are psychoactive and legally available. De Ropp (1957, p. 247) contends that there are numerous substances which are capable of producing psychoactive effects and about which relatively little has been written or is known. These substances have often been used for generations as either herbal pharmaceuticals or as a part of religious rituals. These drugs are being rediscovered by today's youth and are now being used recreationally. Since the ability of many of these drugs to produce either psychological or physical dependence is unknown and many of these substances produce toxic side effects, information about these drugs is essential to professionals working with young people. The drugs identified in this article are those with known abuse potential and which are not illegal. This is certainly not an exhaustive list of abusable substances and should not be construed as such. It is also hoped that this information will not be perceived as a "people's pharmacopeia," as many of these substances carry unknown consequences or can be fatal. Lettuce Wild lettuce (lactuca virosa) includes about one hundred wild and domestic species, only a few of which are native to America. The most widespread, prickly wild lettuce, sometimes called compass plant, is usually one to five feet tall, with small pale yellow flowerheads. It occurs in all of the United States, growing in both fields and waste areas (Martin, l972, p. 156-157). Both wild lettuce and domestic lettuce (sativa capita) must be properly prepared to experience intoxication. The leafy part of the wild lettuce plant is used, while only the heart of the domestic variety is used. The vegetable material must first be liquified in a blender, and at least a pint of juice is needed. The juice is allowed to stand in a bowl, under a heat lamp, until all that remains is a brown-green viscous substance. This residue is then placed in an opium pipe, pointed downward and a flame is applied. The smoke is then inhaled and held deeply in the lungs much like marijuana (Young, Klein & Beyer, l977, p. 125). The high from this residue is reported to be mild sedation and a dreamy, "spaced-out" feeling. Addiction is not believed to occur, however, smoking large quantities has been reported to be toxic (Young, Klein & Beyer, l977, p. 125). Many users avoid this long process of manufacture by purchasing a product variously labeled as lettuce-opium, lettuce-hash, etc. Nothing seems to have been written about the possible addictive potential of these variations, which could presumably be increased with their availability, nor on the toxicity of these commercially available varieties. Ololiuqui Ololiuqui is another naturally occurring substance and is found in the seeds of the morning glory. The morning glory is a vining plant and its flowers are generally white, pink, red, purple or blue (Martin, l972, p. 93). Ololiuqui was first extracted by Central and South American Indians and was used ritualistically as part of religious ceremonies (Julien, 1981, p. 163). Upon examination, ololiuqui was found to contain lysergic acid amide. Lysergic acid amide is approximately one-tenth as potent as lysergic acid diethylamide or LSD (Julien, 1981, p. 163; Young, Klein & Beyer, l977, p. 164-5). In modern times, those seeking an hallucinogenic experience have found morning glory seeds to be highly effective. Although about fifteen varieties are readily available, the two most popular are referred to as Heavenly Blues and Pearly Gates. These are favored because of their high lysergic acid amide content. While lysergic acid amide is present in the entire plant, the seeds are favored because they have the highest concentration and, therefore, the greatest potency. Dosage for a "trip" of 4 to l4 hours duration ranges from a minimum of l00 of the triangular shaped black or brown seeds, to a maximum of 300. This quantity is sufficient to produce the same effects as that of 200-300 milligrams [micrograms] of LSD. [erowid note: this is certainly a transcription error, and should be micrograms, not milligrams, of LSD. Jan 2002] Intoxication is achieved by ingesting the chewed seeds, which are easily digested, or by drinking a brew of their tea. The real problem with using morning glory seeds is not nature-made, but man-made. Many seed companies coat their seeds with fertilizers and fungicides which can be poisonous to users. Probably the main disincentive to using morning glory seeds would be the side effects. These can include diarrhea, nausea, chills, vomiting, vertigo, and abdominal pain. Although overdosage potential is considered low, high doses can produce heart failure, a psychotic reaction, or shock (Young, Klein & Beyer, l977, p. 164-165). Atropine and Scopolamine These two drugs are widely distributed among several plant varieties. Julien (1981, p. 143) reports that these substances are most commonly found in belladonna or deadly nightshade (atropa belladonna), Jimson-weed (datura stramonium), and mandrake (madragora officinarum). Scopolamine is also found in henbane (hyoscyamus niger). Historically, these substances have been used as poisons, but more recently they have been used for their psychoactive properties. To produce intoxication, the leaves of the plant are either eaten or smoked as a cigarette. Only a few of the rank smelling leaves are required to bring on the effects which commence about twenty minutes after ingestion (Young, Klein & Beyer, l977, p. 115-116). Intoxication on these substances can produce euphoria, incoordination, confusion, hallucinations, and visual distortions. The duration of effect for these two drugs can last for up to two days (Gudas, 1977, p. 13). Scopolamine and atropine are not widely used today, primarily because of their toxic side effects. The toxicity of these two drugs has been well known throughout history. In fact, the name atropine is "derived from Atropos, the Greek goddess who supposedly cuts the thread of life" (Julien, 1981, p. 143). Atropine was frequently the drug of choice for poisonings during the Middle Ages. Toxicity seems to be related to the level of tolerance developed for the effects of the drug. Apparently, tolerance develops only for the effects of the drug, and not for the toxic dose level. As the user ingests more and more of the drug to achieve the desired effect, heart damage and death may result (Young, Klein & Beyer, l977, p. 115-116). The Prickly or Mexican Poppy Another plant rich in intoxicating alkaloids is the prickly or Mexican poppy. From the same family as the opium poppy, this legal poppy gets its name from the resemblance of its flower to the now illegal variety. Listed as poisonous in Poisonous Plants of the United States, the seed are fatal to fowl and the plant can cause painful irritation when its prickles puncture the skin (Muenscher, l95l, p. 101). Found generally in the South, some of its twelve species reach all the way to Canada. With white or yellow blossoms, this coarse plant grows one to three feet tall in pastures, fields, and waste places which are not under cultivation (Martin, l972, p. 58). Some accidental poisonings have been known to be caused by this plant. Occasionally some seeds will work their way into harvested grains and accidental ingestion will occur. Cattle may also eat the weed, causing no apparent ill effects, except that toxic alkaloids are then passed on to the unwary in milk (Gudas, l977, p. 19). To obtain the active ingredients, one need only roll the dried leaves and petals into a cigarette. One cigarette is said to produce a mild, euphoric, marijuana-like feeling which lasts about thirty minutes. Another cigarette on the same day is reportedly ineffective, and will not produce intoxication until smoked again on another day (Young, Klein & Beyer, l977, p. 51). No side effects are listed and apparently very little potential for addiction exists. Catnip It is possible to obtain a very mild intoxication when catnip is mixed in equal parts with tobacco. The euphoria produced is reported to be significantly weaker than that of marijuana. The apparent active ingredient has not yet been identified but is assumed to be present in the plant's resin (Young, Klein & Beyer, l977, p. 54). It is possible that catnip's effect is produced merely as a result of enhancing the intoxicating properties of the nicotine found in the tobacco. Dextromethorphan Hydrobromide Dextromethorphan is an antitussive agent which is found in such cold and cough remedies as Cheracol D, Comtrex, Coricidin Cough Syrup, Novahistine Cough & Colds Formula, Robitussin, and Vicks Cough Syrup. Used as a cough suppressant, it is a synthetic compound distantly related to morphine. While the Physician's Desk Reference (Medical Economics Company, 1984, p. 605) states that dextromethorphan produces "no analgesia or addiction," many young people abuse this substance because it is legal and readily available (Lund, 1969,p. 69). A dosage of about four ounces is all that is required to bring on feelings of euphoria, dizziness and even stupor. The duration of the drug's effects vary depending on the user's weight and tolerance for the drug's effects. Side effects can include nausea, gastrointestinal disturbances, and respiratory depression (Medical Economics Company, l984). Nutmeg and Mace Spices commonly found in many households are nutmeg and mace. Nutmeg is obtained from the ground seeds of the myristica fragrans, while mace is obtained from the seed coat of the same plant. Ingested in quantities of about one- third ounce, these spices can be used to induce euphoria, while larger doses can produce hallucinations. The active ingredients in nutmeg and mace are reported to be myristicin and elemicin (Julien, 1981, p. 151). Nutmeg is typically brewed and consumed as a tea, and mace is often inhaled as a fine powder. The duration of effect for these two substances is unknown, but is reported to be quite long (Julien, 1981, p. 151). Use of these substances is usually self-limiting in that they both produce profound and uncomfortable side-effects. Caution in using these substances is necessary, as liver failure and death may result. Discussion It would seem impossible to control all of these substances. Indeed in the case of morning glory, we have unsuccessfully tried to eradicate this pest in several states (Martin, l979, p. 94). We have also seen the poor results of trying to control those substances that have already been identified as psychoactive. Perhaps the real answer lies in education. We have seen that the highs obtained are accompanied by harmful side effects. Through the availability of credible information, the educated person could make an informed decision. References de Ropp, R. S. (l957). Drugs and the Mind. New York: Grove Press. Gudas, A. G. (l977). Poisonous Plants: A Guide for Parents and Adventurous Eaters. Phoenix: Do It Now Foundation. Julien, R. M. (1981). A Primer of Drug Action (3rd. ed.). San Francisco: W. H. Freeman and Company. Lund, H. W. (l969). Drugs and Your Child. New York: Hart. Martin, A. C. (l972). Weeds. New York: Western. Medical Economics Company. (l984a). Physicians Desk Reference for Non Prescription Drugs. Oradell, N. J.: E. Barnhart. Muenscher, W. C. (l95l). Poisonous Plants of the United States. New York: Macmillan. Young, L. A., Young, L. G., Klein, M. M., Klein, D. M., Beyer, D. (l977). Recreational Drugs. New York: Macmillan.