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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
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
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
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.
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 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
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
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.
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
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,
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
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.
de Ropp, R. S. (l957). Drugs and the Mind. New York: Grove
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.
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: