Pubdate: Tue, 23 May 2006
Source: Belleville News-Democrat (IL)
Copyright: 2006 Belleville News-Democrat
Author: Theresa Vargas, The Washington Post
Bookmark: (Hallucinogens)


Kids know about morning glories, parents, do you?

They have such whimsical names as heavenly blue, crimson rambler and 
pearly gates, and delicate blooms that crawl quickly up trellises.

But when morning glory seeds aren't planted -- when they are instead 
ingested -- whimsical thoughts can crawl through altered minds with 
kaleidoscope-like visions.

And teen-agers know this.

Once popular in the hippie era of the 1960s, morning glory seeds as a 
hallucinogen seem to have sprouted once again. Washington-area 
gardening shops have noticed their seed stocks depleted by adolescent 
hands, and poison control centers in the District of Columbia and its 
suburbs have received calls from hospitals with patients experiencing 
adverse reactions, or bad trips, from the seeds.

"They are certainly being used," said Chris Holstege, a doctor who 
runs Virginia's Blue Ridge Poison Center. "Kids are getting brighter. 
Between the Internet and magazines like High Times, they are learning 
about this."

Just a few weeks ago, he said, a mother called the center after 
finding seed packets in her teen-age son's bedroom. She wanted to 
know what they were used for, Holstege said. A more serious call came 
from hospital emergency officials who needed to know how to treat an 
18-year-old who had taken the seeds along with an antidepressant and 
cough syrup. His heart rate spiked to 150, his body went rigid and 
his mind reeled with hallucinations.

"These kids have a misconception that it's natural, that it's more 
safe" than other drugs, Holstege said. "They are not. It alters your 
perception, and that puts you at risk."

The seeds contain lysergic acid amide and give an LSD-like high when 
swallowed by the hundreds. A simple Internet search reveals a slew of 
Web sites offering dosages and tips.

In Arlington County, Va., the owners of Ayers Variety and Hardware 
learned about the seeds' hallucinogenic effects when they caught two 
teen-age boys stealing their supply.

"They had 13 or 14 packs of these seeds. You think, hmm," said Kristy 
Peterkin, whose family owns the store. "We then started asking 
around, and our teen-age employees informed us that if you checked 
the Web that it was an easy way to alter themselves."

The store owners have taken some precautions, such as changing the 
bar code on the seeds so the supply can be monitored and noticing 
whether a teen-ager is buying them in bulk. The owners have stopped 
short, however, of putting the seeds behind the counter with the 
compressed gas that can be used for huffing, or carding every 
customer buying seeds who looks young.

"We don't sell pocketknives to children under 16, but can I keep them 
from buying morning glory seeds?" Peterkin asked. "We struggle with this."

It is difficult to say how many teens are using the springtime seeds 
as a drug. Since it is legal to buy them, there are no police reports 
to track. And law enforcement officials across the region said they 
weren't aware that the seeds produced effects similar to those produced by LSD.

The Drug Enforcement Administration, citing ignorance about the 
seeds, referred an inquiry to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 
where a spokeswoman, Sara Rosario Wilson, said, "We really don't have 
enough information on it to make comments." She referred calls to 
Lloyd Johnston, a research professor at the University of Michigan 
and the principal investigator of Monitoring the Future, a study of 
drug abuse among adolescents.

Johnston has studied drugs from cocaine to methamphetamines, but he 
also knows little about morning glories.

"I am afraid kids are ahead of me in that case," he said, adding that 
drug trends emerge every decade. "Over time, the regulatory agencies 
and Congress begin to catch up with these things, but there's usually 
a pretty long lag."

The use of morning glory seeds as a recreational drug is just 
beginning to register nationally. After hearing in March about use 
among teen-agers, the Ohio Early Warning Network issued an alert to 
school, health and law enforcement officials. Louisiana passed 
legislation that made morning glories and 38 other plants containing 
hallucinogenic compounds illegal when intended for human consumption. 
State Rep. Michael Strain, who proposed the legislation, said a 
number of youths had been hospitalized after abusing such plants. 
"Some tried to literally fly," he said.

Drug counselor Mary Ellen Ruff said she believes the issue has 
remained under the radar for several reasons: Drug tests don't detect 
such plants; they're legal; and their use appears to be an adolescent 
phenomenon that doesn't extend into adult drug use.

"It is more for kids that want to be druggies but aren't really," 
said Ruff, who works with adolescents at the Inova Keller Center in 
Fairfax City, Va. "It is sort of them dipping their toe into the 
waters of drug use with something that is legal and easily accessible."

Ruff said one Internet site that talks about morning glories and 
other drugs has garnered a loyal following. "That's a one-stop shop 
for anything you want to know: how to beat your drug tests and 
testimony as to why everything is so great," she said. "Every kid in 
treatment knows about that Web site."

The fear among professionals, Ruff said, is not that a teen-ager will 
die from using morning glory seeds but that he or she has chosen a 
lifestyle that could lead to use of more serious drugs.

But drug abuse counselor George Swanberg, executive director of Life 
Line Counseling Center in Fairfax, said that kid will always exist: 
"That kid who will find something. He will find something under the 
sink or on a walk through the woods."

Swanberg, however, said he believes that the surest way to start an 
epidemic is to talk about a drug.

Jeff Davis, who has a 16-year-old daughter in a Manassas, Va., high 
school, said talking is the only way to stop the problem.

"I've never met a kid that is not more intelligent than their parents 
on the Internet," he said. "How can I prepare my kids for what 
they're going to face if I don't have a clue what they're facing?"

A few feet away, Matt Edelblute, 16, slouched with friends on a bench 
near a skate park. He explained how the seeds are used. "You have to 
eat a lot of them," he said. "I know it lasts between six and eight 
hours." A friend of his had done it, he said, but he hasn't.

"I never felt I had enough time to sit there and eat 500 seeds," he explained.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Beth Wehrman