A '60s Buzz Recycled

Kristy Peterkin, whose family owns Ayers Variety and Hardware, says the owners caught two teenage boys stealing
Kristy Peterkin, whose family owns Ayers Variety and Hardware, says the owners caught two teenage boys stealing "13 or 14 packs of these seeds." (By Linda Davidson -- The Washington Post)
By Theresa Vargas
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, May 3, 2006

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

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

And teenagers know this.

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

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

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

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

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

Signs that teenagers are experimenting locally are for the most part anecdotal: Drug rehabilitation center staff members say they sometimes hear about the seeds from adolescents receiving help for other addictions, and some gardening centers have stated taking notice.

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

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

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

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