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Tropane Alkaloids and Phantom Smoking
An unusual reported effect of Datura, Brugmansia, and Belladonna
by Erowid
v1.0 - Nov 27, 2008
Several plants in the genera Datura, Brugmansia, and Atropa contain the anticholinergic alkaloids scopolamine and atropine. These deliriants produce similar subjective effects, though they vary in potency.

A striking and unexpected effect sometimes caused by these compounds is "phantom smoking" -- the vivid hallucination of smoking an imaginary cigarette. Erowid has received dozens of reports describing phantom smoking by people who have ingested solanaceous plants. The experience is often very similar -- authors describe absent-mindedly reaching for a cigarette in a familiar location, such as a pocket or behind the ear. The imaginary cigarette may be smoked for some time before the person realizes that it doesn't actually exist. People frequently believe that they have dropped a still-lit cigarette, which may trigger an alarmed search by the disoriented subject.

"Phantom cigarettes" have become part of the lore of some of these plants, and several experience reports make clear that the author was aware of the phenomenon prior to their experience. This raises the possibility that this phenomenon may be influenced by expectancy, i.e. the subject expects to have certain hallucinations, so their unconscious mind is more likely to create that particular experience. However, U.S. Army volunteers who received BZ, a synthetic deliriant similar to those found in solanaceous plants1, also frequently hallucinated phantom cigarettes (see "Description of BZ Effects"). It is unlikely that many of these volunteers would be familiar with these reports.

The following accounts have been excerpted from Erowid Experience Reports.


From Wakened Dreaming, by Dean Archer
One thing we did notice on subsequent trips was that even people who had stopped smoking up to a year before would think they were busy smoking a cigarette, suddenly they would realise it wasn't there and start hunting for it on the floor as though they'd dropped it. I don't know if that's worth mentioning, but I thought it was pretty interesting.

From I'm Eating McDonalds, by Terry
Again like so many before, I found myself searching for dropped cigarettes...but they were burning through and sliding under the sheets. I could feel the burnt holes and heat coming off them, feel the cigarette roll away from me under the sheets. And then it hit me that I never lit a cigarette, but I sure needed one. Forget that I was just thrashing around like a wild man for imaginary cigarettes, it was time for the real thing. I actually smoked the same amount as I normally do (30 to 45 min apart), but I always felt like I had one in my hand. Many times my index, middle fingers and thumb would meet as I spaced off and that would induce a frantic cigarette hunt. It was mostly happening in my left hand which I dont even smoke with. This is the aspect I am most curious about of all my experiences. Its so common the explanation is probably very simple.

From The Halls of the Trumpet, by Rose Wine
I roll a cigarette and lift it to my mouth to smoke it, but it has disappeared. I roll another, again it's vanished. [...] Movements are slow motion. I am approached by a formless entity, am instructed in various details, yet I find myself in another room at the same time. I drink countless cups of water. I continue to try, futilely, to smoke a cigarette. Again, the cigarette has disappeared by the time I have brought it to my lips. [...] Fear and sleepiness alternated with diversions by a door here, a person there, a whisper over there, and the endless phantom cigarettes. [...] (And the cigarette phenomenon baffles me. It seems to be the one thing all users have in common.)

From Strong Trip, but Long Lasting After-Effects, by Reformed
I don't remember much else, except for constantly thinking I was smoking non-existant cigarettes. I would think I had one in my hands, even be taking drags off of them, and then my two fingers would touch together and I'd think I had dropped it! I probably spent 3 hours of this trip crawling around on the floor looking for dropped cigarettes. I found out years later that this is a very common appearence in datura trips.

From Late Night Parties and Everlasting Cigarettes, by Anonymous
For some odd reason I always had a cigarette in my hand that would never go out or need to be ashed. [...] So my attention went from the mirror to my hand where a freshly lit cigarette sat waiting to be smoked. This made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. I smoked and smoked and smoked and again the cigarette never burned down any.

From Bad Shit Man, by Anonymous
My parents say I was putting my hand up to my lips like I was smoking a joint or a cigarette, but nothing was really there.

More Datura reports with phantom cigarettes


From Waking to the Sound of a Blood Pressure Cuff, by Tank
My boyfriend informed me that the I spent the night talking to people who weren't there. He said that on the drive to the hospital my friend tried to hop out of the car while we were on the highway. She said she dropped her cigarettes out the window and had to go get them. The problem was the window was rolled up, she had no cigarettes and we were driving at 60 miles per hour when she tried to get out.

From Not So Cold to Me, by IndigoSunrise
This type of test continued in various ways or forms until perhaps 5:30am - including the infamous cigarette vanishing from hand effect A LOT of times. Every time this happened I thought 'I don't smoke in my own room --- where did my cigarette go? -- I ran out of cigarettes this afternoon! -- This is not real!' I continued reinforcing to myself that these were just illusions from the Brugmansia and my head is not completely lost.

From Forbidden Fruit, by Eve...
I remember smoking cigarettes that kept vanishing.

From It's Only a Hallucination, by Enoctis
Yep, still tripping; and there appears to be smoke coming from my desk. The smoke keeps flying by my face, and I say to myself 'oh yea, I need to smoke that cigarette before it's dead' but when I reach down to grab it... I realize that I don't even have an ashtray in here right now, let alone a burning cigarette. I've already done this several times today.

From Good Confused Fun, by that guy
I was amazed to see him acting out some of the commonly reported effects of the drug, he was continuously bringing his hand up to his mouth and tipping his hand as if he was drinking from a cup, he also probably smoked about a half a pack of cigarettes that didn't exist! It was quite hilarious to watch, but also scary because it was as if he was in a totally different world, and was no longer reacting to us at all.

From Completely Schizophrenic, by bowloforanges
I was completely out of my head. I was smoking cigarettes and i watched the cherry burn down and felt the smoke go in my lungs, and every time i went to put it out, it would disappear from my hands. My roomates watched this and said i never really smoked, just thought i did. It took several hours for them to convince me that all of this was in my head, and i was so terrified from these people that i refused to go back down to the basement.

More Brugmansia reports with phantom cigarettes


From Lucid Dreaming, by Skinnypuppy
Four of us decided to do it together in an abandoned coca cola bottling factory we were squatting. We set up two mattresses on the ground, some rugs, and rolled a ton of cigarettes because we figured we would be too messed up to want to roll cigarettes. [...] At some points we are all awake, talking, smoking cigarettes, and drinking beer together, passing them around to each other. Sometimes other people show up and bring more to drink. Sometimes someone drops a cigarette or drink and it's gone as soon as it hits the ground. We look around for it but it can't be found. [...] The next day when we get up around 2 pm we all feel pretty sober. We realized that no one had come over, we hadn't drank anything, and that all the cigarettes we had rolled were still sitting there waiting. We had imagined things ourselves and then by acting them out, made it possible for the others to experience it too. If I turned away for a second or stopped focusing on something, it disappeared.

From The Living Dream, by Worm
Before I could give a second thought I found my self sitting on the ground of what seemed like the park and I was smoking a cigarette that just kept falling out of my hand or just float away. This little scenario kept repeating itself for most of my memory, until at one point I decided to take out my hair tie and let my hair down. As soon as my hairtie came off it fell to the ground and disappeared into a puff of smoke just as the 'cigarettes' did. [...] I also realized that I was smoking a cigarette and that I dropped on my blanket, but when went to fetch it, it was nowhere to be found, no smoke no burns, nothing.


From "Description of BZ Effects" by James S. Ketchum, M.D
"Smoking and drinking of phantom cigarettes and beverages are very common."

Notes #
  1. Technically BZ is not a tropane alkaloid, but a benzilate. However, it is similar to scopolamine and atropine both chemically and pharmacologically.
Revision History #
  • v1.0 - Nov 27, 2008 - Erowid - Initial version by Lux, edited by Fire