Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Myths About Marijuana

"In all affairs it is a healthy thing now and then to hang a question mark 
on the things you have long taken for granted."

-Bertrand Russell

Ah, the Devil's Weed.

Puff the Magic Dragon

The Legend: The Peter, Paul & Mary song, "Puff the Magic Dragon," is about smoking marijuana.

Status: False


It can't be false! Puff = how you smoke pot. Jackie Paper = rolling papers. "Autumn mist" = clouds of smoke. "The Land of Hanah Lee" = Hanalei, Hawaii, where they grow marijuana. It's all there. It must be true!

Sorry. Despite what you heard in high school, "Puff the Magic Dragon" is not about smoking pot or any other type of drug. It is simply a song about the innocence of childhood lost, as its writers have always claimed.

The original poem, which later became the popular song, was written in 1959 by Leonard Lipton, a 19-year-old Cornell student. Lipton passed his work on to his friend Peter Yarrow, who put a melody to the words and created the song, "Puff the Magic Dragon." The song was recorded by Peter, Paul & Mary and reached Billboard charts in 1963.

The 1960's, being what they were, led us to believe that many songs with vague lyrics were "drug songs," Puff included. This was further fueled at the time by a 1967 Newsweek story about hidden drug messages in popular music. This Newsweek article, about songs with drug references in their lyrics, selected innocent songs to show that any song could be interpreted to be about drug use if you really made the effort. It was intended as a tongue-in-cheek analysis of harmless songs, but spawned the rumors that are now shared widely as "known facts." The puff rumor even resurfaced in the 2000 film Meet the Parents.

Smoking marijuana wasn't that popular in 1959, so why write a song about it? Besides, contrary to rumors about the 1960's being such a drug-soaked decade, the Monitoring the Future survey reports that lifetime marijuana use in this country peaked in 1979 at 60%, (Monitoring the Future Study, 1996), not during the 1960's. Sorry kids, Puff was just a dragon.

Seeing Red!

The Legend:  An allergic reaction to marijuana is what makes your eyes red when you smoke it.

Status:  False


To really appreciate this particular legend you have to imagine a group of young people sitting around in someone's basement, in a circle, smoking pot.  They become intoxicated and look across the circle at each other, noticing that some of them have bloodshot eyes. 

"Whoa, dude, you should see your eyes, they're like SO bloodshot!" 
"I know, dude, so are yours!" 
"You know, I heard it's caused by an allergic reaction to the pot. Your eyes are red because you're both allergic, we all are!" 
"No way!" 
Riotous laughter ensues.

If you are a stoner reading this and are offended by the characterization of pot smokers saying lame things, it will be hard for you to mount a defense. A brief read through some online forums and chat rooms looking for answers explaining why marijuana causes bloodshot eyes yielded the following fascinating variations:
  • Marijuana increases your heart rate and that means your blood pumps more vigorously which causes red eyes.
  • Your brain calls for more blood because it heats up.
  • It's the coughing and laughing that leads to the bloodshot eyes, not the pot.
  • Marijuana dries out your eyes like a decongestant.
  • It's because you're forgetting to blink.
  • When you smoke marijuana your tear ducts relax and produce lubricants at a slower rate.
  • Weed gets into your bloodstream and when it goes through the blood vessels in your eyes it irritates them which turns them red.
  • Smoke makes them dry and stings them.
  • "Because pot messes with the nerves of your bran and that triggers your eyes."

What really happens is not nearly as interesting as these theories. Marijuana has a mild vasodilating effect. That means that it relaxes the smooth muscles within the walls of the blood vessel. This widens the blood vessel making it more visible. As a result, the eyes appear bloodshot.

You may have heard the rumor that marijuana is used to treat glaucoma, a condition where the fluid pressure in the eye increases and causes damage to the optic nerve. This is true, there has been some experimental activity in this area, (Tomida, et. al. 2006). When blood vessels relax and expand one of the results is reduced vascular pressure.

Getting Lucky

The Legend: Some packs of Lucky Strike cigarettes contain a marijuana cigarette.

Status:  False


It's been said that every so often in a pack of Lucky Strike cigarettes, the consumer would find a marijuana cigarette as a little bonus. In fact, they were called Lucky Strikes because the smoker would "strike it lucky" by finding this marijuana cigarette.

Rumors of the frequency vary. Were they stashed one per pack, one per every hundred, or one per carton? Lore also says that it was legal to do this since marijuana had not yet been criminalized.

In 1942, five years after marijuana was criminalized through the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937, Lucky Strike changed its packaging from green to red and white. They said that the green ink they were using required copper that was being diverted to the war effort. By discontinuing the green color they were supporting the war effort. The resulting white pack with the red circular logo was rumored to be in honor of the US bombing of Japan - a red circle on a white background being the pattern on the Japanese flag.  One variation of this rumor claimed that the marijuana cigarette was hidden in the Luckies as a boost for US soldiers during World War II.

As is often the case, there is a grain of truth to this rumor. In 1952, a seaman aboard the SS Hibueras, Maguel Angel Pina, was found in possession of a pack of Luckies that contained 18 hand-rolled cigarettes. Later analysis determined that they were all marijuana. Obviously this had nothing to do with Lucky Strike manufacturing protocol and was simply Seaman Pina's way of transporting his marijuana, a method still used with great frequency today.

Packs of Lucky Strike cigarettes do not contain a marijuana cigarette and never have. If this had ever been true we would be hearing this rumor from sources other than school kids and chat rooms. We'd be hearing about it from our fathers and grandfathers who served in World War II.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

420 is the Number of Chemicals in Marijuana

The Legend:  There are 420 chemicals in marijuana.

Status:  False

  • '420' in drugspeak is the time to light up a joint.
  • '420' is the penal code section for marijuana use in California. (Nope. Section 420 of the California Penal Code refers to obstructing entry onto public land.)
  • '420' is the Los Angeles and New York police radio code for marijuana smoking in progress. (Nope, again.)
  • '420' is the number of chemical compounds in marijuana. (The number of chemical compounds in marijuana is around 315.)
  • April 20 is the date that Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix or Janis Joplin died. (Nope once more. Morrison died on July 3, Hendrix on September 18, and Joplin on October 4.)
  • The 20th of April is the best time to plant marijuana.
  • Albert Hofmann took the first LSD trip at 4:20 or on April 20, 1943. (Actually, Hofmann's first LSD trip, which was accidental, took place on April 16, 1943.  Coincidentally, his lab notes from that day say it was at 4:20 p.m.)
  • '420' is the code you send to your drug dealer's pager.
  • When the Grateful Dead toured, they always stayed in Room 420. (Untrue, says Grateful Dead Productions spokesman Dennis McNally.)

Just about everyone has heard that '420' (said "four-twenty") has something to do with pot smoking, but they never seem to know what the term actually signifies.

It is said that '420' originated in 1971 as a slang term used by a small group of high school kids, reminding each other of the time they planned to meet after school to get high, 4:20 p.m.  This was supposedly started at San Rafael High School in California, but there is no way to verity this.

'420' is now widely accepted pot-smoking lexicon. Cities celebrate "hemp fests" on April 20. There's a 4:20 record label, a band called 4:20, a snowboard company called Four 20, and texting '420' means marijuana. Atlanta's Sweetwater Brewing Co. sells its 420 Pale Ale in supermarkets and opens its doors to the public at 4:20 p.m. New York's 420 Tours sells low-cost travel packages to the Netherlands and Jamaica. Highway 420 Radio broadcasts "music for the chemically enhanced," and so on. 420s are also routinely slipped into popular movies and television shows, and can probably be found in your local graffiti, so keep your eyes peeled. It's everywhere.

As amusing as it is to tie 420 to pot smoking and hunt for it in popular movies, the number has its dark side. Hitler was born on April 20, 1889, and the massacre of 13 victims at Columbine High School in Colorado took place on April 20, 1999.

Pot Smoking Males May Grow Breasts

The Legend:  Men who smoke a lot of marijuana may grow breasts.

Status:  False

  • Smoking marijuana will reduce a man's testosterone levels.
  • Smoking marijuana will reduce sperm count.

Where did this information come from?  Back in the olden days, before we had such resources as chat rooms and message boards, one of the ways for people to share ideas was by writing letters to newspapers and magazines. That way many people would see their letters and could respond.

This is just what happened in this case. Two anecdotal case history letters to reputable medical journals, a 1972 letter to the New England Journal of Medicine (Harmon, 1972) and a 1980 letter to the Journal of Pediatrics (Copeland, 1980) discussed patients who were young males with breast enlargement or delayed puberty who were also marijuana smokers. The intent of the letter was to see if other doctors had seen this pattern. Instead, the story that "smoking pot grows breasts" began and has floated around for 30 years.

Breast enlargement caused by marijuana smoking has never been confirmed through research. If a marijuana user grows breasts it is likely a result of inactivity and a high calorie diet.


The Legend:  By legalizing hemp cultivation we could solve many environmental problems, such as deforestation.

Status:  False

  • Growing hemp will yield more cash per acre for farmers growing other crops.
  • Hemp is easier to grow than cotton because it is very low maintenance and requires fewer pesticides.
  • Big businesses like DuPont lobby to keep hemp illegal because it threatens their synthetic fiber market.
  • Hemp is a weed that can be grown anywhere.
  • George Bush was saved by a hemp parachute.

Earlier in U.S. history, Americans cultivated hemp for its fiber content, producing hemp-based products such as rope, paper and cloth. During the 1930's an anti-hemp movement led to passage of the Marijuana Tax Act (1937) effectively ending the U.S. hemp industry.

Is hemp marijuana? Is marijuana hemp? Hemp is made from the cannabis sativa plant, the same plant that gives us smokable marijuana. There are many different varieties of this plant. The psychoactive cannabis sativa that gives us smokable marijuana is a bushy plant with THC content between 3% - 15%. Industrial cannabis sativa is a tall, spindly plant with almost no THC, less than .5%, which makes it useless as a recreational drug.

It is illegal to grow hemp in the U.S. the reasons given by the government for this is that by legalizing hemp we are one step closer to legalizing marijuana. They fear the two varieties of hemp will be grown side by side which would be undetectable by air-based enforcement. Marijuana growers say they would never plant industrial hemp near their marijuana plants because it would cross-pollinate and lower the THC content, and therefore the value of their marijuana.

Funny thing is, at the height of hemp production in the U.S. there were only a few thousand acres being cultivated. It just wasn't that profitable or desirable of a crop when legal, so what do proponents think has changed? Yes, hemp can be used to make paper and cloth, but not great paper or great cloth. Hempseed and hempseed oil are nutritious, but so are many other seeds and seed oils.

Re-legalizing hemp will not end deforestation, which is more about lumber and agricultural land, two things unrelated to hemp or hemp-based products. Hemp is also not a threat to synthetic fiber manufacturers as the two materials are used for different things.

The Canadian ban on hemp cultivation was lifted in 1998, so let's watch and see what happens there.

One Will Get You Twenty

The Legend:  Smoking just one marijuana cigarette, or joint, does the same amount of damage to the respiratory system as smoking an entire pack of cigarettes.

Status:  False

  • The number of cigarettes equal to one joint has been reported from 4 to 20.

This is a widespread piece of misinformation. You might have even heard it in health class when you were in school. Marijuana critics have been known, on occasion, to exaggerate or misuse statistics to support their "evil weed" agenda. That is the case with this rumor.

In 1980, Dr. Donald Tashkin of UCLA, one of the leading experts on the health effects of marijuana, published an article that described large airway damage in marijuana smokers greater than that seen in persons smoking 16 cigarettes a day, (Tashkin, 1980). You can see how this rumor started.

Dr. Tashkin's point was that marijuana smoke was more damaging to large airways while tobacco smoke was more damaging to smaller airways. Largely ignored the same study was information that suggested 1) marijuana smokers had overall better lung health than cigarette smokers, 2) that unlike tobacco, pot does not appear to cause emphysema, and, 3) that hand-rolled joints can have significant variation in size and weight when compared to standard sized tobacco cigarettes.

Additional research has observed that marijuana smokers tend to smoke their product differently, inhaling deeper and holding smoke in their lungs longer. They also smoke less on a daily basis, (Tashkin, 2005; Wu et. al., 1988). All of this additional, and conveniently overlooked, information makes comparing joints to cigarettes difficult.

Dr Tashkin, whose research is always sited to support this one-to-sixteen ratio rumor has rejected the idea that smoking one joint is equal to smoking 16 cigarettes.

Monday, March 2, 2009

It's Not Your Daddy's Pot

The Legend:  The marijuana that kids are smoking today is 20-40 times stronger than the marijuana that was smoked just 20 years ago.

Status:  False


Claims of escalating marijuana potency, intended to scare the public, go back to the mid-1970's, and they are always started and fueled by the federal government. It is a sad truth that our own government's drug policy is so agenda-heavy that press releases lack accuracy to the point of becoming urban legend material.

The most recent Annual Press Release on this, notable because it is now an annual news event, came from the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) on June 12, 2008. Their message, as it always is, was, "Oh no! Pot is getting stronger! Danger! Danger!"

The DEA, basing their information on research conducted at the University of Mississippi Potency Monitoring Project, reports that THC content for commercial grade marijuana increased from 3.7% in 1983 to 5.57% in 1998, and is now at 9.6% in 2007.  Is 9.6% 20 to 40 times greater than 3.7%? You do that math.

The next question is just how accurate are these potency numbers and how were they determined? There is some discussion in the research that earlier marijuana seizures of the 70's and 80's were improperly stored so those samples had lost their potency more than a decade later when they were analyzed. This suggests the low potency numbers of the 70's and 80's were inaccurate and more about stale pot, not weak pot. A more careful analysis of marijuana seizures indicates that marijuana potency increased during the 1970's by a factor of two, not 40, (Mikuriya & Aldrich, 1988).

Now let's break down these numbers and have a look at U.S. pot on the international stage. In 2004 the average THC content in homegrown Dutch marijuana was 20.4%, (Pijlman et. al., 2005). In England in 2005 the potency of local indoor grown cannabis averaged 13.9% (Potter, Clark & Brown, 2008). Interestingly, in Amsterdam, where medical marijuana is legal, a minimum THC level of 12% was established for medical marijuana because higher potency meant the patient would smoke less.

U.S. pot might be getting stronger, but we still lag behind other countries in potency. It is safe to say that there is no teen in Amsterdam sitting in a basement saying to his buddies, "Wow, that is some great New Jersey bud!"  Which brings us back to the teens, which is what all this hoopla is supposed to be about. Stronger pot is dangerous because it hurts kids. That is the message.

"Proof" of this claim is also included in the ONDCP report and the follow-up report released by the The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University. Their press release is even more alarming with headlines claiming "175% increase in THC since 1992!" And, "492% rise in treatment admissions!"  492%, now there is a number that gets my attention.

It make sense that if teens are being hurt by something that we would see increases in admissions for treatment, hospital stays or ER visits. So what is this 492% increase in teen treatment admissions really about? Were that many more kids really hurt by marijuana between 1992 - 2006, or does this number reflect something else? Maybe there was a change in the way numbers were collected, or a change in the way the treatment system is used. 

In fact, the way adolescent substance abuse treatment programs have been used for the past 15 years seems to be partially responsible for this inflated number. Prior to  1992, if a student was caught with a joint, or failed a urine test at the probation office, he was sent on to jail, or fined, or probation was extended, or he went to a "residential school" affectionately called "juvie."

But the 80's and 90's brought us a growing and humane industry designed to help rather than punish kids who where involved with drugs. Rather than get sent to jail, kids were sent to treatment. Everyone liked this option because it was helping kids with a medical problem and giving them a real second chance. Sending kids to treatment or rehab was the right thing to do, so we did it, and the resulting numbers are staggering. We did it 492% more than we did it in the 1980's. Good for us and good for kids. But is this really proof of more potent pot hurting kids?

No. This is simply a correlation. One number changes up at the same time and in the same direction as another number. That does not mean that one thing caused the other thing. Between 1992-2006 the price of gas increased over 200%, did that cause the rise in marijuana potency? Or did the potent marijuana cause that increase in gas prices? No and no, obviously. But when you compare two numbers that seem like they should be related, like potent pot and adolescent treatment admissions, then it is not so obvious.

What the media, and our government, would like us to believe is that potent pot caused increases in treatment admissions. What they are not saying is that this was a relatively new option for courts and local law enforcement to use during this same 15-year period. They're not saying what percentage of that 492% increase in referrals were voluntary referrals and what percentage were attending treatment because they had to, because they were caught in possession, because they passed dirty urine, because it was required to avoid expulsion from an academic program or dismissal from a job, because it was an alternative to incarceration, or because they were otherwise court-ordered. If all of that court coercion could be separated out and we could look just at voluntary admissions for treatment with a primary drug problem of marijuana, and then compare that number alongside the increasing potency numbers, then we might have a correlation worth examining more closely.

The rise in treatment admissions doesn't support the argument that stronger pot is more dangerous. In fact, no one has even explained how potent pot can be dangerous. The standard answer is that strong pot will lead to more people becoming addicted to marijuana, as proved by increased treatment admissions. This is circular reasoning.

The other argument about why potent pot is more dangerous is that stronger pot is more addictive. The problem with that argument is that a physical addiction to marijuana has never been proven, at least not at the time of this writing. Current research on marijuana addiction is focused on finding a physiological, measurable, withdrawal syndrome. If physiological symptoms of withdrawal can be identified and measured then it can finally be said that marijuana is addictive. Without a withdrawal syndrome of some type, then there is no addiction.

With other addictive drugs there is a clear symptom pattern of withdrawal. Alcohol withdrawal includes vomiting, sweating, tremors and shakes, even seizures and is often called "The DTs." Heroin withdrawal includes vomiting and diarrhea, body pain and misery that can go on for days, and is often called being "Dope Sick." But with pot all we have so far is a condition called Stems and Seeds Blues, or being out of weed.

The most recent piece of research on this (Milin et. al., 2008) identified symptoms experienced by most regular pot smokers when they quit cold turkey. Those symptoms included restlessness, appetite change, thoughts if cannabis, cravings for cannabis, irritability, depression, twitches and perspiration. These symptoms peaked during the first week of withdrawal, tapering off to nothing after 30 days.

Now don't get me wrong, it's very important that we study and identify any type of withdrawal syndrome that might exist with pot smokers so that we can provide the best types of treatment for those who want to quit. But honestly, irritability? Thoughts of cannabis? If I were without my computer for a week I would have thoughts of computer, cravings for computer, irritability and restlessness caused by computer withdrawal. I would feel the same if I were separated from my dog. The point being, those symptoms aren't really proof of physiological addiction or withdrawal, are they? With no proof of addiction, the whole argument that stronger pot will cause more addiction seems silly.

One point that remains absent from these potent pot claims is that high THC pot is expensive, much more expensive than locally grown weed. So expensive, in fact, that few high school students can afford to buy it. High quality marijuana, female unpollinated, can cost more than $8,000 a pound. Most students don't have that type of case. $500 for an ounce of this potent pot is too high a price. Potent pot is cost-prohibitive for most young people.

There is no good evidence that pot today is 40-times stronger than it used to be. No one has shown that potent pot has hurt anyone. It has not been proven that potent pot is addictive. Our potent pot isn't even up to par with the average pot found in other civilized societies, so things will most assuredly become more potent in the next 5-10 years. Marijuana smokers are saying that if they have stronger pot they self-regulate, inhale less deeply and smoke less of it, and this has been supported by research, (Korf, Benschop & Waters, 2007). They argue that the stronger the pot the less they have to smoke and the better it is for their health.

Despite the popularity of this potent pot claim, the average potency of marijuana that is seized today is around 5%, the same as that seized 20 years ago.  Bottom line, stronger marijuana products like sinsemilla, hash or hash oil may be more available now that 20 years ago, but average ditchweed, or whatever they call it in your neighborhood, is just as it ever was.

New York White

The Legend:  An especially potent strain of pure white marijuana is growing in the New York sewers.

Status:  False


In America in Legend, folklorist Richard Dorson tells about an especially potent strain of pure white "albino" marijuana growing in the New York City sewer system. Where did this come from? Why, all those seeds in all those baggies of all that pot that was hastily flushed down toilets during drug raids of course!

New York White is also mentioned in The Anarchist Cookbook, (Powell & Bergman, 1971), and is described as being 12 feet tall and white due to the lack of sunlight.

Has anyone ever seen this albino marijuana? Of course not. No one can find or harvest it due to the danger from all the alligators in the NYC sewer system.

This is one of those stories where it helps to know a little about botany. And I mean just a little, like what you learned in 6th grade. Green plants require sunlight. Without sunlight they do not simply morph into a fungus so that they can live in the darkness. No matter how passionately your friend insists that this can and does happen, it does not.

Smoking Seeds Makes You Sterile

The Legend:  Marijuana seeds contain some substance that, when smoked, will leave a man sterile.

Status:  False


Exactly what is it in those seeds that would leave a man sterile? According to Michael Tierra in his book Planetary Herbology, marijuana seeds are 19% protein, 31% lipids, choline, trigunelline, zylose, inositol, phytin and various enzymes. There is virtually no THC in cannabis seeds, which is why they remain legal to buy and sell. Lipids are fats and oils. Choline and inositol are part of the B Vitamin complex, they're nutrients. Zylose is a sugar. Trigunelline and phytin are types of salt. There doesn't seem to be anything there that would inhibit sperm production or health.

There seem to be many pot-smoking cultures with healthy birthrates, including our own here in the U.S. As marijuana use, and presumably the practice of smoking seeds, steadily increased in this country, peaking in 1979, there was a concomitant rise in the rate of teen pregnancy, (U.S. Teen Pregnancy Statistics, 2006). We would not see that trend if marijuana seed smoking was reducing fertility in males.

There is some research that suggests that sperm motility can be temporarily affected by the THC content of smoked marijuana, (Whan et. al., 2006), but other research shows that sperm motility is effected just as much by the tightness of a man's underwear, (Sanger & Friman, 1990).

Smoking Pot Kills Brain Cells

The Legend: The active ingredient in marijuana, tetrahydrocannabinol, kills brain cells.

Status:  False


As discussed earlier in this blog, this myth came from a poorly done piece of research in which brain changes were observed in Rhesus monkeys who had been exposed to high doses of marijuana smoke, (Heath et al, 1980).

Subsequent research done on animals and humans has found no evidence of physiological changes in brains exposed to daily marijuana smoke, and further, no evidence of mental decline or lowered IQ in these regular users, (Castle & Ames, 1997).

Heavy users report a pattern of short-term memory impairment that can persist for months into abstinence, but this does not appear to be caused by physical damage to the brain.

In order to kill brain cells you have to use legal drugs, such as alcohol.

That's Why They Call It Locoweed

The Legend:  Smoking marijuana increases the risk for developing schizophrenia or other mental illnesses.

Status:  False


Research connecting marijuana use to mental illnesses such as schizophrenia is a good example of how media reports confuse correlation with causation. Correlation means observing that two variables seem to occur together. Causation means that changing one variable always causes changes in the other variable. A correlation would be noticing that there seems to be a higher rate of schizophrenia among marijuana smokers. Causation would be saying that marijuana smoking causes schizophrenia. Correlation is where research begins; causation is where you hope your research will end.

In the late 1980's, a piece of research published in the medical journal Lancet observed that chronic marijuana smokers were twice as likely to be schizophrenic - a correlation, (Andreasson et al, 1987). The study did not suggest that smoking marijuana had caused the schizophrenia. In fact, scientists have pointed out that there has been no increase in the rates of schizophrenia in those areas where there is heavy marijuana use, an increase you would expect to see if marijuana smoking did cause schizophrenia.

It is now believed that marijuana use may trigger an earlier onset of schizophrenic symptoms in those individuals that are already predisposed. It has also been reported, by the users themselves, that in some cases marijuana can ease their psychotic symptoms. This could account for the higher rate of marijuana use among people with schizophrenia.  The marijuana didn't cause their schizophrenia, the schizophrenia is what led to their self-medication of symptoms with marijuana, (Warner, 1994). big difference.

The greatest risk factor for schizophrenia is family genetics. If this type of mental illness is in your family you might want to reconsider your marijuana usage.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Myths About Hallucinogens

" A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes."
- Mark Twain [Attributed]

Hallucinogens are drugs that distort the information you get from your peripheral nervous system, creating visual, tactile, and aural hallucinations. They can also create synesthesia, or the mixing of senses. Drugs in this category include not only chemicals like LSD, but magic mushrooms (psilocybin) and ecstasy as well.  

Our basic fears of losing control seem to be played out in these legends about hallucinogens. We're warned that we might lose control by unwittingly dosing ourselves with a lollipop, interacting with the wrong person, or using a contaminated pay phone - or so these legends would have us believe.

While there aren't a whole lot of deaths associated with the use of hallucinogenic drugs, use can precipitate depression, paranoia or a prolonged psychotic reaction resembling schizophrenia. Newer research has shown that hallucinogen use may trigger schizophrenia in predisposed individuals.

Per Veritatum Vis - Strength through truth.

Banana Bonanza!

The Legend:  You can get high from smoking banana peels.

Status: False


Rumor has it, and just about every kid entering high school in this country has heard this rumor, that you can get high smoking dried banana peels. What a huge financial savings over more traditional drugs, like marijuana. And so easy to buy, too. Bummer that it's not true.

Even though the word bananadine has been created (sometimes spelled banadine"), and there are recipes floating around, there are no psychoactive components in bananas, banana peels or banana extracts. While the online recipe for this extraction was intended to be funny, with rips into current folklore, "Bananas are 30x stronger now than they were just 10 years ago," people have actually gone through all the steps in these spoof recipes and guess what?  They didn't get high.

This rumor seems to have its origin's back in March 1967 with a prank letter that was published in the Berkeley Barb. It has been said that Donovan's song, "Mellow Yellow" is about smoking banana peels. There is a recipe for this extraction in the Anarchist Cookbook, (Powell, 1968). You can find recipes for preparing bananas for smoking in the humor sections of some of the better drug websites.

Here's an interesting factoid for the geeks amongst us. While they can't be smoked, there are legitimate uses for banana peels outside of slapstick comedy. Banana peels can be used to remove trace metals from water, (Annadural et. al., 2003).

Getting High on Catnip

The Legend:  Catnip contains psychoactive oils and smoking it can get you high.

Status:  False


Catnip, Nepeta cataria L., is a very interesting plant. It is a flowering herb that grows in North America and is probably most well known for its effects on cats. Catnip's power comes from nepetalactone, a volatile oil.

Nepetalactone has been used medicinally for thousands of years as an antispasmodic, a sedative and a treatment for diarrhea, colic, the common cold, leprosy and even cancer. It can be brewed into a tea, powdered, or cooked into soups and stews. Some references on this plant say that smoking catnip can produce euphoria and visual hallucinations, others say just the opposite.

Perhaps the most talked about reference to smoking catnip was a 1969 article in the Journal of the American Medical Association that suggested that smoking catnip would get you high, (Jackson, 1969).  A few hundred readers responded to this article, pointing out that the accompanying photograph was actually a marijuana plant. It seems the author had confused catnip with marijuana.  Ooops.

It is now generally accepted that catnip has no hallucinogenic properties when smoked. Message boards are full of accounts of disappointed catnip smokers.

As for the other medicinal benefits, there is no harm in brewing yourself a cup of catnip tea and seeing if it settles your stomach.

Interesting factoid: Nepetalactone has shown itself to be an incredibly effective, non-toxic insect repellent, (Amer & Mehlhorn, 2006).

Ecstasy Makes Holes in the Brain

The Legend:  Use of Ecstasy, even in small amounts, will leave permanent holes in your brain.

Status:  False


False?  No way! I've seen the pictures! There is photographic proof that this is true.  

Or is there?  You've seen pictures, but were they really pictures of a brain damaged by ecstasy? Maybe they were interesting pictures that showed areas of inactivity that simply looked like physical holes, which encouraged people to draw the erroneous, inaccurate and false conclusion that ecstasy had caused those "holes."

Most of us have seen the "Plain Brain/Brain on Ecstasy" photos. It was a drug prevention campaign designed by the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA). The photo was a split image; on the left was a healthy looking intact brain, on the right was a smaller brain that appeared to have holes in it. This campaign used these photos to imply that users had shrunken brains with holes in them as a result of their ecstasy use.  NIDA promoted these "holes in the brain" photos on postcards, bookmarks and other educational materials.

These now legendary photos were taken by a NIDA funded scientist, Dr. George Ricaurte, at John's Hopkins University. Dr. Ricaurte himself says that the photos are of poor quality and that he had nothing to say about their use, that this was strictly a NIDA project. That would be the politically correct answer from a researcher who has already been found to have falsified data and research results. NIDA was eventually pressured by the scientific community to discontinue this misleading ad campaign.

All the current research being published on the neurotoxicity of ecstasy recognizes that it is nearly impossible to attribute the brain changes they might be observing to the use of a single drug, ecstasy. That's because people who use ecstasy might also use alcohol and other drugs, which themselves might be neurotoxic, (Gouzoulis-Mayfran & Daumann, 2006).

As for ecstasy causing holes in your brain, the most consistent research findings are showing cognitive, memory and mood changes with heavy ecstasy use, but no physical brain damage, (Gouzoulis-Mayfrink & Daumann, 2006; Morton, 2005).  To kill brain cells in a large enough quantity for it to show up on a brain scan you would have to use the legal drug, alcohol.

Drug-Laced Suckers and Lollipops

The Legend:  A flier warns parents that drug-laced candy in the form of suckers and lollipops poses a hazard to children and teenagers.

Status:  Mostly False

[Taken from the Internet]

North Little Rock Police Department put out a warning. Someone is giving middle school and high school kids suckers that look like: Maple Leafs; Pumpkins & Santa Claus that are laced with three different TYPES OF VERY STRONG DRUGS THAT ARE HALLUCINOGENIC,  and this is STRONG ENOUGH TO KILL a child or teenager.

The police station received a tip from the Memphis, TN police. Some arrests in Memphis have been made. These suckers have turned up in Blytheville. Officials' fear that these suckers will begin to show up throughout the state.

If you have children, or know anyone with children, PLEASE inform them of this possible threat to our children.


All the earmarks of a hoax are here. We have capitol letters, a fear-inducing tone that tells us that drug users are after our children again. There is a drug mentioned that is hallucinogenic and deadly, but it is never actually named. People have been arrested in Memphis, but no details are given, including what they were arrested for and if anyone was hurt. Suckers have turned up in another town, but were they being given to children? How were they found? Where were they? And naturally you are encouraged to forward this to everyone you know with children.

For the most part this is just another "LSD will kill you" rumor. The North Little Rock Police Department denies issuing this warning.

What is true is that authorities in different parts of the country have reportedly confiscated chocolates that contained psilocybin mushrooms, and lollipops that contained THC or heroin. There are no reports of LSD-laced candy. In no cases were these confiscations made on school playgrounds or in situations where a drug dealer was trying to entice a child.

While these drug-laced candies really are being found, they are not being given to children and the likelihood that children would end up with them is close to zero. Sometimes dealers put drugs into candy, like chocolate, for their buyers [See 'Nothing to Snicker About']. This is not done for reasons of selling or giving the product to children.

This email has taken a small truth and expanded it to fictional claims of deliberately harming children, with death resulting from the consumption of these adulterated candies. It just isn't happening.

Rare With a Side of PCP Please

The Legend:  Use of PCP can turn people into cannibals.

Status:  False


This is a good example of how make-believe crime shows are shaping the minds of our youth. You know that CSI isn't real, right? You know that West Wing is fiction, that Jimmy Smits isn't a politician in Washington and that Buffy the Vampire Slayer doesn't go to your school, right? Right?

Well, not everyone is as smart as you are. They see something on TV and assume it is real. It doesn't help that some of the current crime shows will have disclaimers suggesting that story lines are based on real or true events but names have been changed to protect the innocent. This is the case with a 2002 episode of CSI where a cheerleader, high on PCP, ends up killing and snacking on another cheerleader.

There was one real PCP/cannibalism case in 2002 where rapper Big Lurch (Antron Singleton) was found to have eviscerated and then chewed on his roommate's organs. At the trial, the defense claimed that Mr. Lurch was insane from PCP use at the time of the flesh smorgasbord. The jury didn't buy it and he is currently serving a life sentence.

There are many stories about PCP causing violence, often gory violence like eye-gouging and fetus killing. All of these stories make one think that there must be some truth behind the notion that PCP can trigger horribly violent acts, including cannibalism. A review of the research shows that there is one drug connected to more violent acts than any other, but that drug is alcohol, not PCP, (Hoakin & Stewart, 2003).

Can PCP use trigger violent acts? At this time, the best research says no, that there is no association between PCP and violence, (Fauman & Fauman, 1979). A person's response to PCP, or any drug, may differ as a function of personality characteristics rather than the physiological effects of the drug. (McCardle & Fishbein, 1989).

As for cannibalism, it seems to be acceptable if it's spiders or chickens eating their own, or even plane crash survivors, but it is one of the most intolerable things we can imagine one human being doing to another. Medical literature includes cases of cannibalism, but all instances were associated with mental illness, not drug use, (Medina, et. al. 2006). The common denominator in each case of human cannibalism seems to be people who were unstable to begin with and didn't need much of a push to lose control of their eating habits.

There's a Fungus Among Us

The Legend:  If you smoke psilocybin mushrooms, the spores will get into your lungs and grow there.

Status:  False


Recently there has been discussion in chat rooms about smoking psilocybin mushrooms rather than eating them. It is said this may produce faster but milder effects. However, it is not clear whether psilocybin or psilocin mushrooms can produce psychoactive effects at all when smoked. User reports vary widely, and there is the constant worry about planting mushroom spores in your lungs.

A spore is the seed of the fungi. Spores are designed to survive for extended periods in unfavorable conditions to ensure perpetuation of the species. Knowing that, it would be easy to jump to the conclusion that mushroom spores are quite hardy and can certainly survive inhalation from their dark and moist breeding ground to the new dark and moist environment inside your lungs.

It turns out that there really is a definite danger from inhalation of mushroom spores. Medical literature has coined the term "mushroom worker's lung" to describe the symptom pattern seen in people who are over-exposed to mushroom spores through the cultivation, picking and packing of the mushroom crop, (Moore et. al. 2005).

But the mushroom spoor has a weakness, something that can hurt it like Kryptonite hurts Superman. A close reading of the directions that come with the apparatus for growing magic mushrooms warns that when growing fungi like mushrooms it is important to keep the spores away from anything hot. Heat is an efficient killer of spores and bacteria. Single celled organisms like spores and bacteria can be killed by boiling, pasteurization or even the small rise in temperature from a fever. What this means is spores from a mushroom will not survive the heat needed to light and burn them for smoking.

A review of the National Library of Medicine and the National Institute of Health medical research databases show no articles published on the effects, either acute or long-term, from smoking psilocybin mushrooms.

Nothing to Snicker About

The Legend:  Powdered psychedelic mushrooms have been found in chocolate candy.

Status:  True


The DEA began reporting powdered or grated psychedelic mushrooms in chocolates in 2003. Psilocybin mushrooms can be dried and powdered without losing their psychedelic properties. The powder can then be put into capsules, which is far easier and neater to transport.

Powdered mushrooms are nothing new. In The Teachings of Don Juan: The Yaqui Way of Knowledge, Carlos Castaneda describes experiences using hallucinogenic drugs including the mention of powdered mushrooms.

The mushroom-containing chocolates that were confiscated by the DEA were described as being "homemade." It appears that the sellers of psilocybin mushrooms were covering them in chocolate in an attempt to disguise them from DEA agents. The chocolate also doubled as a cover for the foul taste for those who purchased them in this sugary form.

There are recipes online for how to make mushroom-laced chocolates. It's not rocket science and simply requires melting chocolate and stirring in the mushrooms, whole, dried, grated, powdered, any form will work. It's best to do this in a double boiler so you don't burn your chocolate.

Chocolate covered psychedelic mushrooms are made by dealers and purchased by users who know exactly what it is they are buying. This rumor is not about magic mushrooms showing up in your Snicker's bar or box of Godiva truffles. That has never happened.

Wee Willie Winkie

The Legend:  Magic mushrooms will stunt penis growth.

Status:  False


There are a number of rumors connecting the use of various products, both legal and illegal, to penis shrinkage or impotence. In the case of magic mushrooms, no evidence exists to support this rumor.

There are drugs, both medical and recreational, that count impotence as a side effect. The most well known being diuretics, beta-blockers, alcohol, and amphetamines. 

If you are tripping on psilocybin mushrooms it's a given that your perception will be changed, and you may look down at yourself and perceive that your penis is small, is getting smaller or has even disappeared. Those are hallucinations and are the reason you ate the mushrooms in the first place. If you are prone to insecurities, don't look at your penis while you're tripping, watch TV instead. That's why they make the Cartoon Network.

Cheesing in South Park

The Legend: "Cheesing" is the act of deliberately inhaling cat urine to get high.

Status:  False


South Park, an award-winning animated TV show created by Trey Parker and Matt Stone, is the source of this legend. The show's success lies in awesome graphics and writing, and the unparalleled satirical presentation of current events.

In 2007, Newsweek reported on a new drug phenomenon in Dallas, Texas called Cheese Heroin. Cheese is a small amount of heroin mixed with a larger amount of crushed acetaminophen (Tylenol) and diphenhydramine (Benadryl). Generally, cheese heroin, so named for it's shared appearance with parmesan cheese, is only 2-8% heroin, compared to 30% found in the more common black tar heroin. It was called "starter heroin" because it was being used by adolescents as young as 9-years-old. Cheese heroin is serious stuff. 40 users under the age of 18 have died.

Critics were all over the Newsweek article saying that there were no scientists used as sources for what was being described as an emerging drug epidemic. Others complained that the media was reporting unsubstantiated numbers, sensationalizing this new drug, and giving too much detail on how to make it. There was fear that media irresponsibility would cause a spread of this drug which for two  years had only been found in a very localized area of Texas.

Given the funny name and the media mishandling of the news, it became prime fodder for Parker and Stone, and the practice of "cheesing" in South Park, Colorado was born, (Episode 170, "Major Boobage" Aired 3-26-08). "Cheeesing" involved attaching a male cat to a specialized apparatus and stimulating him to spray his urine into the user's face. Inhaling the male cat urine created an intense high.

Is it real? No. You cannot get high on cat urine. Ammonia inhalation can cause irritation to the eyes, nose and respiratory tract. In some cases cat urine can contain bacteria, such as Coxiella burnetii, which when inhaled through airborne exposure can result in Q fever, pneumonia, and even endocarditis and death, (Bartelink et. al. 2000).

Inhaling cat urine can make you a little sick or a lot sick, but not high. Cheesing is a parody, made to show drug use as ridiculous.  I mean, to do it you need a special harness for your cat. 'Nuff said.

The Red Worm

The Legend:  The worm in the Tequila bottle is hallucinogenic.

Status:  False

  • The worm indicates the alcohol content.
  • The worm is an aphrodisiac.

Mayahuel was the Aztec Goddess of fertility. After a complicated marriage that involved being turned into a tree and eaten by the stars, her remains were buried. The first agave plant grew on her grave. Angry gods struck it down with lightening, creating the fermented sap. The Aztecs named the plant "Metl" in her honor, which is where we get the word "Mezcal."

The story of Mayahuel is an interesting piece of history, the worm is not. Despite what you've been told, the worm is not an ancient Indian tradition, but one started in 1950. The legendary worm is specific to Mezcal. Mezcal is made from distilled sap from the Espadin variety of the agave plant. The agave worm is actually the caterpillar of the Hypopta Agavis moth. It bores into the center of the agave plant. It is virtually impossible to make Mezcal without killing a few worms.

And it turns out you wouldn't want to filter out the worms since they add a distinctive flavor to the liquor. Rather than try to remove them, a whole worm was added to each bottle as a marketing gimmick. The worms are now farm-raised for this specific and peculiar use. They can be red to white in color. The purists prefer the red worm.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Let It Bleed

The Legend:  Using  hallucinogenic mushrooms will cause your brain to bleed.

Status: False

[Gathered from the Internet message boards]
  • Did you know that 'shrooms make your brain bleed? When you see the walls breath it's really the blood running behind your eyes.
  • I heard that LSD can cause blood to drip down from the base of your skull so if you do LSD a lot, you will get this blood drip in the back of your head.
  • Some people around here think 'shrooms make your stomach bleed and then the blood from your stomach bleeding is sent to your brain and that's how it makes you trip.
  • Psylocylobin [sic] (mushrooms) is a poison that clots the blood in the back of your brain and blocks the serotonin in your brain from transferring at the correct speed, which is why some people get depressed afterwards.
  • Somebody I know who has very strange ideas about drugs believes that mushrooms actually cause your brain to bleed and then you get high from that.
  • LSD makes your brain bleed and clogs your veins so certain organs don't get blood circulation.
  • LSD causes your brain to bleed, and then it scabs over, then when the scab falls off you have a flashback.
  • I thought acid made my brain bleed down my spine and like others say burns your spine and leaves scarring.
  • Ecstasy can make your brain bleed.

When your brain bleeds it is called a stroke, intra-cranial hemorrhage, brain aneurysm or a cerebral-vascular accident (CVA). This urban legend is suggesting that using LSD will cause one of these things to happen to your brain. 

This is not a new idea. Intra-cranial hemorrhage has been linked to illicit drug use for decades. You can still find "stroke" or "brain hemorrhage" listed as a possible side effect of illicit drug use in some drug prevention materials. Not all illicit drugs contribute to these brain-based bleeds, but that is never made clear in the older, scare-based drug education materials.

If your brain bleeds, chances are very good that you'll know it is happening and will seek emergency medical treatment. The Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) is a system for emergency room (ER) data collection. In 2005, the most recent year for which we have data, there were 1,864 ER mentions of LSD, (National Estimates of Drug-Related Emergency Department Visits, 2005). The next question is, were all these LSD users in the emergency room because their brains were bleeding?

20% of young people, age 49 or younger, who suffered stroke had abused drugs. The dominant drugs of abuse were cocaine and amphetamines. LSD isn't mentioned. The real risk factors for stroke are cigarette smoking, high blood pressure, low body-mass index, cocaine use and family history.

In fact, it is possible that just the opposite of a brain hemorrhage will happen when a person uses LSD. Ergotomine, a chemical similar to LSD, has been used in the treatment of migraine headache, as has LSD, because it really does effect the blood flow in the brain. Not by causing a hemorrhage, but by actually constricting the blood flow (Saper & Silberstein, 2006).

Research on stroke, aneurysm or other types of brain bleeds suggest that the only illicit drugs that are connected to brain hemorrhage are cocaine and amphetamines. LSD use is not a risk factor for brain-bleeding events, (Broderick et. al. 2003).

Gimme Some Skin

The Legend: Smoking peanut skins will make you hallucinate.

Status:  False


The Anarchists Cookbook (Powell, 1971) is full of handy, dandy, notoriously unreliable recipes like this one. The instructions say to remove the skins from unsalted raw peanuts, crush them, pack them into a bowl and smoke. Preparing and smoking them in this way will allegedly cause hallucinations.

Many people have tried this. After all, it's cheap, legal and available. If only it worked, right?

It doesn't. There is nothing psychoactive in peanut skins whether they are dry, raw, cooked or burned. However, smoking anything can make a person lightheaded, so don't rule out the placebo effect.

Recommended by 9 Out of 10 Dentists

The Legend: Spreading toothpaste on orange peels and smoking it will create hallucinogenic effects.

Status:  False

  • Spreading toothpaste on cigarettes and smoking will make you high.
  • Spreading toothpaste on orange peels, storing them until they mold (one source says to store them "under a rug"), then smoking or eating the mold will get you high.
  • Taking some ABC gum (already been chewed) and wrapping it in an orange peel with some toothpaste until it molds, then smoking or eating the mold will get you high.

Here we go again with the oranges! Oranges and their peels have been appearing in drug-themed rumors for decades. Despite the rumors, there is nothing in oranges or their peels that will cause psychoactive effects.

Toothpaste is made from a mild abrasive, a foaming agent (generally sodium lauryl sulfate) and sodium flouride. There is nothing in toothpaste that is psychoactive. Flouride in high concentrations is toxic and can cause gastrointestinal symptoms, even death, but not hallucinations. It is doubtful that combining toothpaste with an orange would create a psychoactive compound.

There was a movie in 2002 called "Shuang Tong" in which a murderer is planting a hallucinogenic mold into the brains of victims. This is fiction people, fiction! Eating moldy organic material may make you feel different, but in an I-feel-like-I'm-gonna-puke sort of way.

The exception to this would be mold that grows from an already psychoactive host (mycillia) or the mold that grows on rye (ergot) from which LSD was synthesized.

The only trip a moldy orange will give you is to the bathroom.

Rise and Shine and Give God That Glory, Glory!

The Legend: You can get high eating Morning Glory seeds.

Status: True


The seeds of the Heavenly Blue, Pearly Gate and Flying Saucer Morning Glory plant contain a naturally occurring hallucinogen called lysergic acid amide (LSA) which, not surprisingly, is similar to lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD).

LSA is currently a Schedule III substance in the United States, which means possessing LSA as a pure chemical, as extracted from the Morning Glory seeds, is illegal. However, the raw seeds are sold at most garden stores and purchase and possession of them is not illegal.

High on Visine

The Legend: Visine eye drops are a hallucinogen and drinking them will get you high.

Status: False

[Taken from the Internet]

"I've tasted it, and, so far as  know, I'm the only person to taste it at high levels. It gives an itchy, uncomfortable dizziness that I wouldn't characterize as a "high" and certainly not a psychedelic one. Effects were intense, and culminated in me retching the shit back up."

  • Putting a few drops of Visine into a drink will cause diarrhea.

Visine actually does contain some pretty interesting chemicals, oxymetazoline, and tetrahydrozoline among them. Neither is a psychoactive drug, neither will get you high, and both can make you pretty damn sick.

As for adding Visine to someone's drink, it's said that this is an age-old barmaid trick for dealing with difficult customers.  Most of us have heard this one and have been told about a friend of a friend that this happened to. Seems like a harmless enough prank, except that it isn't harmless.

Ingesting the active ingredient in Visine, tetrahydrozoline, can be quite dangerous, causing blurred vision, difficulty breathing, nausea, vomiting, seizures, tremors , coma and respiratory arrest. Diarrhea is nowhere on this list. Pfizer, the manufacturer, warns that if this product is swallowed that emergency medical help or help from a poison control center is recommended. And it doesn't take much to bring on these deadly symptoms, (Tobias, 1996).

Unfortunately, revenge-seekers don't always research their methods before implementing their plan. In a highly publicized incident in 1995, a clerk at Whole Foods Market spiked a customer's drink with a bottle of Visine thinking she was playing a practical joke. The victim became violently ill and was hospitalized for days. He survived to bring a $1 million lawsuit against Whole Foods Market.

In January of 2009 a Missouri woman tried to kill her husband by putting Visine into his tea. A statement of probable cause said the husband had been having stomach problems for the past two months. He lived, she was arrested and charged with first degree assault.

Keep in mind that secretly putting something into someone else's food or drink with the intention of harming them is called poisoning, and it is a crime.


The Legend:  Adrenochrome, a powerfully psychedelic drug, can only be acquired from the adrenal glands of a live human donor. Once harvested, the donor dies.

Status: Somewhat true, but no one dies.


Adrenochrome, C9H9NO3, was represented as a recreational drug by author Hunter S. Thompson in the book Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. In this book, and subsequent film, it is presented as a powerful hallucinogen that is acquired from a living donor's adrenal gland. Removing this gland kills the donor, as a dead person's adrenal gland doesn't contain the right juice. The high is shown to be like a hallucinatory amphetamine rush. This is supported by a similar mention in The Doors of Perception by Aldous Huxley, where adrenochrome is likened to LSD.

This is a case where the myth is far more interesting than the facts. Adrenochrome is real. It is synthesized by oxidation of adrenaline (epinephrine) in the adrenal glands. Medically, adrenochrome is used to reduce capillary bleeding. It may create mild euphoria, but there really are no psychoactive effects documented from this drug.

Dr. Abram Hoffer and Humphry Osmond (1954, 1959) first presented the adrenochrome model of schizophrenia, claiming that adrenolutin, one of the metabolites, combined with adrenochrome to create the hallucinatory symptoms we see in schizophrenia. This hypothesis was abandoned decades ago.

The true, boring nature of this chemical has not stopped popular culture from running with it. There are bands and songs by this name as well as mentions in many song lyrics and movies. This chemical is available for purchase in powdered form, something to remember before you cut the adrenal glands out of your neighbor.

Human Placenta Contains Hallucinogens

The Legend:  The human placenta contains the hallucinogen dimethyltriptamine (DMT).

Status:  False


What is most interesting about this particular rumor is how it most likely began. You can picture the eager high school student doing a search on DMT when he stumbles on all these articles about human placenta and DMT. Whoa!

You'll find the same thing if you do a search, hundreds of website and articles about placentas containing DMT. Imagine a young, drug-involved student skimming through these and seeing phrases like, "...DMT in the human placenta...". Could be an exciting discovery, and probably was. So exciting that the young internet surfer didn't bother to read further to find out that the DMT in these articles was not the DMT being sold by his local dealer.

The DMT being written about in relation to human placentas is divalent metal transporter-1 (DMT-1), not dimethyltriptamine. There haven't been rumors about drug users stealing, drying and smoking human placentas. At least not yet.

Again fact being more interesting than fiction - minute quantities of DMT are made by the pineal gland in the human brain. No one really knows what this is for. Perhaps it is tied to our sleep-wake cycle, or to some component of dreaming. What we do know is that it is made in quantities too small to cause hallucinations.