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Plant seeds with hallucinogenic effects could mean trouble for children

'You can have very much have an LSD-like experience,' one doctor says

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MIAMI BEACH, Fla. – Back in the psychedelic '60s, smoking pot and tripping on acid were how a rebellious youth got high as they embraced the mantra of "Peace, Love & Flower power."

Fast forward 50 years and flower power is back with a whole new twist: Teens are using readily available plant seeds to get high.  

"You can have very much have an LSD-like experience," said Dr. Jeffrey Kamlet, referring to the seeds of the morning glory plant. That's because they contain a chemical called LSA, which is closely related to LSD.

"The hallucinogenic effect of morning glory seeds was discovered in 1959, when an American researcher learned they were being used by Central American tribes in shamanic ceremonies," said Kamlet, medical director of Tristar Wellness on Miami Beach.

It's a high that comes with a painful price, triggering severe nausea, vomiting, stomach pain and intractable vomiting.

The seeds can also be poisonous, because they're coated with insecticides and mercury-containing compounds as preservatives.

"They can actually cause heart problems, paralysis and stroke-like symptoms," said addiction expert Dr. William Clay Brown.

The psychedelic effect of the seeds is also amplified by certain antidepressants, alcohol and even some foods.

"They may do something crazy like drive or jump off a cliff, thinking they can fly," Brown said.

Kamlet is also concerned about a new wave of people purchasing unwashed poppy seeds off the internet.

"You can buy these legally in the United States because poppy seeds are not illegal to be sold,"  Kamlet said.

Here's the problem:

"It turns out if you buy unwashed poppy seeds, they're loaded with opium on the outside," said Kamlet. 

That, he says, makes unwashed poppy seeds highly addictive.

"Just like you were doing oxycodone or heroin or anything else," Kamlet said.

Addiction specialists urge parents to be on the lookout for what their children may be buying online and offer this warning to teens seeking a high from the seeds:

"We haven't had any deaths from morning glory seeds, but we will," said Kamlet. 

Some nurseries and home-and-garden businesses are voluntarily stopping the sale of morning glory and other hallucinogenic plant seeds both in retail centers and online.

About the Authors:

Veteran journalist Kathleen Corso is the special projects producer for Local 10 News.