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.

Hallucinogens in the Bible

The Legend:  The Samson tale in the Bible, of foxes running through the weeds with torches on their tails, is a veiled reference to hallucinogen use.

Status:  This one is up to you.


This passage can be found in Judges 15:4. Rather than 300 actual foxes tethered together with torches, it is believed, by some, to be a concealed reference to a battalion of 300 men made fearless after ingestion of amanita muscaria - hallucinogenic mushrooms that, when dried, are fox colored.

Divine Toad Sweat

The Legend:  You can get high by licking toads.

Status:  False


We've all heard the stories, seen the Simpson's episode and made the jokes. Toad-licking was just so bizarre that it was destined to become a contemporary legend. Never mind that it's not true, it's still a great story.

The toad in question is the Bufo alvarius or Cane Toad. Cane toads have sacs behind their head that will release highly poisonous venom and quickly kill animals that prey on them. They are so toxic that dogs, snakes and even crocodiles will only survive minutes after eating one.

Despite the stories and jokes, you can't get high licking the venom off of this toad. Besides, would you really want to try after watching it kill a crocodile?  There is a hallucinogen in the toad's venom, but the venom has to be processed to extract the hallucinogen into a form that is safe to use.

Some said that the hallucinogenic chemical was bufotinine, 5-OH-DMT, found in all Bufo toad venom. In 1967 the FDA even made bufotenine a Schedule I drug, which means it has no potential for medical use and is too dangerous for human consumption. They were wrong. Bufotenine is not the active hallucinogen in toad venom.

The psychoactive chemical in toad venom is actually 5-MeO-DMT. 5-methoxy-dimethyltryptamine is a powerful hallucinogen. This drug is present in only one of the more than 200 species of the Bufo toad; Bufo alvarius. 5-MeO-DMT is inactive when taken orally. To get high on toad, the venom must be collected, dried and then smoked or snorted, which will get you high for about 15 minutes.

Bufo toad venom shows up in the strangest places. Even though banned by the FDA, bufanolides are still imported and sold illegally as aphrodisiacs in products such as Love Stone, Chinese Rock and Black Stone. When ingested they can be uncomfortable, unpleasant and fatal.

The Bufo Toad has it's admirers and worshipers. LSD evangelist Art Kleps, founder of the psychedelic Neo-American church, has a newsletter called, "Divine Toad Sweat." And Bufo toad evangelist Albert Most founded the "Church of the Toad of Light." While many people have used hallucinogens to achieve spiritual insights, remember that this particular hallucinogen can kill a crocodile.