Morning glories are both decoration and pest, but some people are discovering that the seeds of these pervasive vines contain an intoxicating chemical similar to LSD. The chemical is often referred to as LSA, or lysergic acid amide, molecularly like D-lysergic acid diethylamide.
This chemical in morning glory seeds is also called ergine, in a class of hallucinogenic substances called ergolines, which are all derivatives in some way from LSA. Ergolines can be derived from nearly every plant in the Convolvulaceae family, which have been used for ritual purposes in Mexico. LSA specifically is most often produced from the Hawaiian baby woodrose vine, a kind of morning glory.
Typically, eating morning glory seeds is not dangerous, but in large enough quantities, they can cause hallucinations, physical symptoms like nausea and diarrhea, and overdose. A concentrated LSA extract from morning glory seeds is becoming a popular substance of abuse, which can cause problems like those associated with LSD, including psychosis and other mental health disorders.
This intoxicating hallucinogen was discovered by the same scientist who discovered LSD, Albert Hofmann. Because of the potential dangerous effects, LSA is listed by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) as a Schedule III substance, assuming that it has a moderate to low potential for dependence or addiction. In comparison, LSD is still a Schedule I substance. Also, unlike LSD, LSA is a naturally occurring drug.
How Is LSA Abused?
Although LSA is a hallucinogenic drug, it is also a sedative, unlike LSD. Some people report that the substance produces sedative effects at first, then transitions into psychedelic effects. Sedation can feel like extreme fatigue or a mild body relaxation, depending on the dose.
Also unlike LSD, LSA does not have a known toxic level. While several reports to poison control centers and hospitals have involved consumption of a lot of morning glory seeds, overdoses have never been recorded as fatal, just uncomfortable.
Like LSD, LSA is reportedly not addictive. Unlike with LSD, the desire to consume more of the drug reportedly decreases as one uses more of it. LSD can be appealing to some, while LSA loses its appeal after a few doses.
Both LSD and LSA can rapidly produce physical tolerance, meaning a larger dose of the drug is required to produce the original effects. Reportedly, the first dose of LSA begins to produce tolerance in the body. The individual must wait for about a week for the substance to metabolize completely out of the body in order for LSA to produce any pleasant or psychedelic effects with the next dose.
Because morning glory seeds can be purchased legally in garden stores or grocery stores, teenagers are at greater risk for abusing LSA than adults. The substance is very easy to acquire while LSD is illegal for purchase by anyone in the US.
Effects and Side Effects of LSA Abuse
One of the most common effects associated with LSA is physical discomfort. While the drug can cause hallucinations, people who abuse morning glory seeds also experience illness. Most anecdotal reports about LSA include statements that the drug can cause a dreamy, full-body intoxication with hallucinations, but may feel more like a trip, with added nausea.
Physical signs of LSA intoxication include:
- High blood pressure
- Heart rate changes
- Cramping in muscles and stomach
If the drug only produced negative physical symptoms, fewer people would abuse this drug. Effects of intoxication include:
- Tactile hallucinations, usually reported as a mild tingling sensation
- Visual hallucinations, especially color shifting or a sense of the world melting
- Auditory hallucinations
- Euphoria that comes in waves
- Relaxation or sedation
- Vasoconstriction, or a tightening of the veins and arteries, which can lead to sore muscles
Psychedelic effects are reported as:
- Thought connectivity
- Faster thinking
- Ego suppression
- Time distortion
- Thinking conceptually
- Enhancement of one’s current state of mind
- Feeling fascinated, full of awe, or important
- A feeling of familiarity
At large enough doses, LSA reportedly induces consistent hallucinatory states that feel like dreaming. However, people have been taken to the hospital due to consuming large amounts of morning glory seeds, leading to nausea, stomach cramping, or a bad trip.
Unlike LSA, LSD is a synthetic drug. While some compounds and hallucinogenic effects can be found in ergot before LSD is produced, the full chemical must be produced in a laboratory setting, beginning with ergot. This drug was created in 1938 as a potential medical treatment, but the hallucinogenic effects of the drug were not discovered until Hofmann himself consumed some of the drug in 1947.
Through the 1950s and 1960s, LSD was used as a way for psychology students to understand schizophrenia, and it was sometimes used as a treatment for various mental conditions, including schizophrenia. However, after LSD was diverted for recreational abuse, the substance was moved to the Schedule I category in the 1970s.
How Is LSD Abused?
LSD is a psychedelic substance that binds to receptors in the brain and begins to produce hallucinations and sensory changes within 30-90 minutes. Unlike LSA, which lasts for 5-6 hours, LSD can produce effects that last up to 12 hours. It also rarely produces nausea, but the substance is consumed differently than LSA. While LSA is eaten, often in the form of morning glory seeds, LSD is a clear or whitish liquid that is dissolved in the mucous membranes of the mouth, so it enters the bloodstream faster.
It is unknown if LSA produces flashbacks, but the experience is well-documented among people who have taken LSD, even once. The medical term is hallucinogen persisting perception disorder (HPPD), and the experience of flashbacks involves repeated or spontaneous recurrence of some sensory distortions produced by LSD. Halos and trails around lights or attached to moving objects are a common flashback experience; also, re-experiencing emotions, from awe at the universe to paranoia, are also common with HPPD.
Effects and Side Effects of LSD Abuse
Unlike LSA, the effects of LSD are well-documented. Physical effects from consuming LSD include:
- High body temperature
- Flushing of the face
- Dilated pupils
- Increase in blood sugar
- Elevated blood pressure
- Rapid heartbeat
- Salivation and dry mouth
- Tingling in the fingers and toes
- Physical shaking or tremors
- Loss of appetite
- Chills or goosebumps
- Blurred vision
- Sleeplessness while intoxicated
- Changes to appetite
Psychedelic effects from taking LSD include:
- Hallucinations, most often visual and auditory
- Increased intensity of sounds, smells, or touch
- Sense of a greater understanding of the world or universe
- Distorted experience of time
- Out-of-body experiences
- Synesthesia, or a blending of sensory experiences, like hearing colors
- Feeling intensely spiritual or religious
Depending on a person’s mental state at the time they take LSD and their surroundings, one can have a “bad trip,” or a negative emotional experience through hallucinations and brain state changes. Some effects of bad trips include:
- Panic and increased anxiety
- Mood swings
- The sense of losing one’s identity
- Fear associated with losing oneself
- Violence toward oneself or others
- Seizures (rare)
Potential Dangers of Psychedelic Abuse
While LSA is sometimes, incorrectly, referred to as “legal LSD,” there is not much the two psychedelic drugs have in common. They are chemically similar, in the same ergoline family, and they can produce some hallucinations that are similar; however, LSD does not produce nausea while LSA does, potentially because it must be eaten. LSA is a natural chemical while LSD must be produced in a lab. LSD produces more visual hallucinations while LSA is more of a body high. There is not much information about LSA’s toxicity while LSD’s effects and toxicity have been extensively studied. Both drugs are technically illegal, although LSA is easy to abuse because morning glory seeds can be found for purchase; LSD is produced by only a few clandestine labs in the US, and it is completely illegal.
LSA may not be considered addictive, but it can be dangerous. Vomiting or diarrhea can lead to dehydration. Like LSD, a person with a predisposition for psychosis or a mental health problem may worsen the condition if they consume a psychedelic drug like LSA.
The toxicity of LSA is not adequately understood. While it reportedly does not produce a poison-based overdose, people have been hospitalized because of use of morning glory seeds.
Avoid substances like LSA and LSD because they can be harmful to the body and mind. If a person is already abusing these drugs, assistance through a comprehensive rehabilitation program can help the person overcome substance abuse and addiction.