Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Another spate of Tropane related ER visits, and my experience with the Datura family

Edited and added to, after my initial writing in the middle of the night after driving six hundred miles. Updated - A friend who used to cultivate hallucinogenic plants emailed me after reading this post to tell me that Brugmansia was one of the plants he grew. He wasn't certain I had used it, but pointed out that I used pretty much all the plants he grew.

Abel Pharmboy has a post up, about a spate of ER visits due to Angel's Trumpet (Brugmansia). The Brugmansia genus is a close relative of the Datura (deadly nightshade) genus, both being part of the Solanaceae family. These plants contain atropine and scopolamine, which combined in these plants are sometimes commonly called daturine or Tropane. A commenter on Abel's post mentioned that there is a narrow window between a recreational dose and a fatal dose.

I have some fairly extensive experience with the Datura genus and people, especially young people + Tropane plants is very frightening. I have used Belladona, Jimson weed seeds, Henbane and Mandrake - the Belladonna most frequently, Henbane only once. To say the window between a recreational dose and a fatal dose is narrow, is putting it mildly.

The biggest problem is that a person's metabolism, weight and several general health factors are extremely important to both how much one needs to have the hallucinogenic experience that is expected and how much is a fatal dose - with some people having no separation between the two. People who have a slower metabolism are likely to need less and will have a lower threshold for a fatal dose. Someone who is overweight might not have a hallucinogenic experience at a lower dose and may not be able to handle a high enough dose. In most cases, people need to understand that even having a "successful" experience is likely to entail rather extreme discomfort and some serious health risks.

The last time I ended up drinking Jimson weed seed tea, for example, a person who took half what I did ended up hospitalized and (apparently) almost died. I almost died too, but that was a result of something I did as a result of the tea, not as a direct result - though I did drink nearly a gallon of gatorade, over about eleven hours after drinking the tea.*

Belladonna is even worse, because the baseline dose is so very small. Thankfully it is not easy to find in the U.S., as it isn't a native species. Though of course it is easy enough to cultivate and seeds aren't very difficult to come by - that would be why I was able to use it relatively frequently, over the course of a few years. It was rather nasty in retrospect, as it didn't cause an overt "high" and the effects lasted for weeks. Characteristic was having conversations with people who weren't actually there - they would appear, chat for a while and disappear. Both the appearance and disappearance would be abrupt, but seem perfectly normal - after a while I was cognizant of what was happening and simply believed that I was talking to "spirits." I never had serious complications with it, but was also very careful about companionship (read; babysitters) for the initial experience which would include experiencing hallucinations that were indistinguishable from reality. Without someone to keep track, I could easily have done very dangerous things - completely unaware of where I actually was.

This is really the most dangerous aspect of using tropane plants - the hallucinations are completely indistinguishable from reality. With some you get a definite "high" with the experience, but the actual hallucinations are exceptionally "real." They also usually encompass all of reality - everything you are experiencing, or most of it, may be a hallucination. You might be laying in or even restrained to a bed in reality, while what you are experiencing involves being somewhere completely different, in situations that seem entirely real. Even when they are patently absurd. An excellent example of that (beyond conversations with abruptly appearing and disappearing conversational partners) was "smoking" while on Jimson weed.

The last time I would roll my cigarette, smoke it - managing to smoke them down to the barest butt without burning my fingers, then having the butt completely disappear. I actually smoked more than normal that night, though not significantly more than I normally would under the influence of a moderately powerful, to powerful hallucinogen. When I was actually cognizant of reality again, I discovered that the pouch of tobacco I had bought the previous night remained unopened. Mind you, the whole smoking experience seemed entirely normal - I was mildly curious where the hell my butts were disappearing to, but not the least bit alarmed or surprised by their disappearance.

There was also the bonfire and the cops issue the initial night I drank the tea. We really did have a bonfire (which I was actually locked away from), but at some point I looked out the window and saw three police cars - lights flashing - driving into the bonfire, like they were trying to plow it under. Not realizing that I couldn't get outside if I wanted to, I got all panicked because I had lost my pants and someone needed to deal with the cops. I got downright pissed at my roommate, who also owned the farm, because he refused to go deal with the cops and was getting upset with me for yelling about them.

I later opened the door to the woodburning stove, with the catalytic converter closed. When my roomie woke up to the smoke and closed it, I was turning blue and barely breathing. He had already bungee strapped me to the bed - after that he used duct tape and large zip ties to strap me directly to the futon frame.

The only other time I used Jimson weed, it is mostly unknown what happened, as I accidentally slipped my sitters. I managed to escape through a second story window onto a porch roof, wandering west county St. Louis. I was completely naked when I left - I was wearing a strange sport jacket and shorts, when my friends picked me up about 38 hours later. I know what I thought was happening to me in that time - but no idea what actually happened. I was twenty seven miles away from the house I left, having likely gone through mostly rural, wooded terrain. I was severely dehydrated when my friends got me (I was taken in by a farmer, who allowed me to use his phone when I knocked on his door - I was mostly cognizant, but still seriously fucked up at that point) and suffered extremely nasty flu like symptoms soon after - likely from drinking water that wasn't particularly clean. I was also covered in cuts and bruises, two of the cuts being relatively nasty - though I hadn't lost a dangerous amount of blood.

In both cases, time dilation was also an issue. The first time I experienced roughly four days, in forty-seven hours. The last time, I experienced nearly a week in about eleven hours.

I had most of these experiences under controlled, safe conditions - at least as safe as taking shit that is that toxic can be. I was very aware of what I was doing and had a relatively reasonable idea what sorts of doses would be safe for me. Even with the best controls I or others could work out in place, I nearly died several times** when using plants in the Datura family. This is actually true of several other plants I used - some rather less safely than others. These plants and many other enthogens are, or can be very dangerous.

If you are considering fooling around with Tropane plants, please don't. These aren't something to do for fun and honestly, they aren't "fun" in the context of recreational drug use. If you are looking for fun and feel you must use hallucinogens, you might explore psilocybin mushrooms. Note that I am not encouraging anyone to use any hallucinogen. Having rather extensive experience with great many hallucinogens, I am very familiar with potential problems. Most of the problems with mushrooms or acid tend to occur infrequently. The problem is that some of those potential problems can be quite serious.

I am sure that if you're a U.S. American under the age of forty or so, you probably went through some sort of propagandizing about drugs - maybe you even went through DARE. They probably talked about the horrible things that will happen to you, if you use acid or mushrooms. What they probably didn't explain is that while going nuts isn't inevitable, it is entirely possible. While we don't understand the mechanisms behind a lot of neurological problems, such as schizophrenia or affective mood disorders such as bipolar, we can make some assumptions. One of those assumptions is that however a predisposition (susceptibility to) for such mental problems might occur (biological v. environment), something very likely has to occur to trigger that predisposition before a person actually becomes mentally ill. Hallucinogens are a very plausible trigger - even acid and psilocybin mushrooms.

The other problem, one that is common to all hallucinogens, are the things that can happen to you because you are on something that significantly reduces your control over, and even your perception of reality. It can become much easier for someone to take advantage of you. It is also possible to simply do really stupid, dangerous things. Some of the things that I have personally done on acid or mushrooms include: climbing trees and falling out, riding a bicycle and crashing into parked cars - also nearly getting hit by moving cars, trying to drive once, falling out of what was thankfully a first story window - the possibilities are pretty endless.

It is really easy to assume that it just can't happen to you. It is also generally desirable to think that it won't, because you only want to be special, or different in "good" ways. Unfortunately, there is no way to tell you have the predisposition for certain neurological disorders until you become symptomatic. Given our poor understanding of these problems, it is also possible that acid and mushrooms might cause psychosis in people who don't have a typical predisposition - it may be that there is something else going on in the brain that acid and psilocybin can affect.

A lot of us have a hard time with the nature of statistics and probability. We see something described as being less than ten percent and we want to assume that means it is rare. When we see things described as being less than one percent, we want to assume that means it is nearly impossible for it to happen to us. The problem with that thinking is that while those percentages may be small, it is entirely possible that you or me will be in that one tenth of one percent. After all, even at those odds, it is likely to have happened to someone you were in school with. There were more than three thousand students in my high school, so one tenth of one percent = at least three people I was in school with. One in a thousand means that more than 323 people in the greater Kalamazoo-Portage metro area, where I live, would be affected.

I am not going to pretend that if you use acid or mushrooms, it is extremely likely that something horrible will happen to you - I just want to make you aware of the risks - of the nature of those risks. I don't want you to use these drugs, because I really don't believe the risks involved are worth it. But if you are absolutely bent on using some sort of hallucinogen, I hope that you won't use anything except for acid, psilocyban mushrooms or possibly Salvia. Even then I would strongly recommend that you have someone sober around to help make sure that you are safe, while using hallucinogens. Preferably someone who isn't afraid to get you medical attention should you need it and who is capable of telling whether that is the appropriate response to a given situation.

I would also suggest that if you are going to use any enthogens, that you scroll down my sidebar and check out information about that drug on Erowid and the Lycaeum - MAPS is another good resource. Read about what others have experienced and about the pros and cons of a given substance. But also be very aware that what others experience may not be your experience. And also keep in mind that most of the people who write about their experience are the ones who had a positive experience - or relatively positive experience. People who had a particularly bad experience are far less likely to write about it.

Finally, please keep in mind that there is seriously important neurological development going on until you are somewhere in the range of 22, to 26 years old. The substances you use before that development is complete may have a significant and permanent effect on your brain. Even after that initial development period is over, our brains are still changing and shaping around our experiences and choices. The brain is harder to shape as we get older, but it is still changeable - even permanently so.

* A characteristic of Jimson weed use is extreme dehydration as well as a shut-down of the urinary tract - I got a kidney infection my first time.
** This would be indicative of the sort of behavior I am talking about when it comes to hallucinogens being a serious substance of abuse for me.

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