The computer magazine PC World recently published a cluster of exposé articles by staff writer Tom Spring, revealing that a number of more-or-less psychoactive plants and plant extracts — many legal and some not — are easily available online. "At a time when authorities are cracking down on illegal sale of steroids and prescription drugs online," he writes, "substances such as kratom and Mexican prickly poppy, which pack a psychedelic and narcotic-like punch, are flourishing on the Internet." One doctor with whom he spoke warned, "With some of these substances it's like playing Russian routlette with your life."
Still, the author reports, injuries or overdoses related to the ingestion of natural stimulants and hallucinogens are rare. "Emergency room visits are infrequent," he was told by a hospital pharmacist at the University of California–San Francisco School of Pharmacy. Most emergency room visits stemming from the use of hallucinogens involve bodily harm, the pharmacist said; someone falls down and bruises a bone.
Sometimes specific warnings are appropriately stronger. "Datura is an extremely poisonous plant," says the site selling Datura inoxia. "There have been many reported fatalities ... We strongly discourage anyone who is contemplating ingesting any part of this plant." Dutch Green Bud smoking mixture, which is made from plants containing leonurine and lactucopicrin, both mild sedatives, is accompanied by the warning, "Do not drive or operate any machinery after using this product."
Among the plants and plant extracts purchased online by the author were Salvia divinorum, motherwort (Leonurus sibiricus), kratom (Mitagyna speciosa), jurema (Mimosa hostilis), fly agaric (Amanita muscaria ), argemone (Argemone mexicana)), kanna (Sceletium tortuosum), datura (Datura inoxia), ayahuasca (Banisteriopsis caapi), and chacruna (Psychotria viridis). One online store offered, not a plant or plant extract, but what it claimed was the powerfully hallucinogenic 5-methoxy-dimethyltryptamine.
The articles, despite their stern warnings about the effects of these plants, and scary videos of teenagers looking really stupid after ingesting Salvia divinorum, yield several ironies. The first is that the author provides links to the online sources of the psychoactive plants and fungi the articles are warning against, making it very easy for the reader to go right ahead and buy them online.
Second, the author submitted the nineteen samples he had purchased to the National Center for Natural Products Research at the University of Mississippi. The reports issued by the NCNPR emphasized all the potential dangers of the plants, but also reported that, with one exception, the plants they tested were exactly the plants they were advertised to be. The one exception was when a substance purported to be the hallucinogen 5-methoxy-dimethyltryptamine turned out to be the muscle stimulant 5-methoxytryptamine.
So the links provided in the articles are not just to online sources for psychoactive plants. They are — with this one exception — links to reliable sources.