Morning glory vines are both decoration and pervasive pest, but people may not be aware that a compound in the seeds of these plants is associated with drug effects similar to that of LSD. Morning glory seeds contain alkaloids, which some may attempt to consume for a legal high. The primary psychoactive substance in the morning glory plant is ergine, or D-lysergic acid amide (LSA).1
The intoxicating effects of LSA are somewhat like the effects of D-lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD); however, side effects may be more severe.
Seeds of the morning glory plant have been used since ancient times in ritual ceremonies. For example, the Maya used the plant in a beverage to facilitate communication with the spirits to predict the future or to come to an understanding of otherwise incomprehensible events.2
Though eating morning glory flowers may not be directly toxic, in large enough quantities, consuming the seeds can lead to diarrhea and hallucinations.3 A concentrated LSA extract may be abused by some.1 Many online drug forums provide discussions about extracting botanical LSA for recreational use, especially from an even more potent source than morning glories, the Hawaiian Baby Woodrose plant.4
How Is LSA Abused?
Because LSA is touted to have a high like that of LSD but is not a controlled substance, many online forums proclaim it to be a good way to get a similar high without the legal risks of “acid”—itself a Schedule I drug. However, as reported by Today.com, people frequently get sick consuming large-enough amounts of the seeds before they can reach the high they are seeking. (See below for side effects.)5
Because morning glory seeds can be purchased legally from nurseries, garden supplies, and other retail settings, they are relatively easy to obtain. This ease of access may lend itself to LSA experimentation by adolescents and teens, which can be quite unsafe. In 2016, several teens in Massachusetts ended up in the emergency room after attempting to get high from LSA, leading the Superintendent of Public Schools in Seekonk, MA to alert parents to the danger on the local police department website.5
Users of morning glory or Hawaiian Baby Woodrose seeds will often take many seeds and put them in a coffee grinder, add them to a food or beverage, and consume them. 4
Effects and Side Effects of LSA Abuse
LSA can cause:4
- Visual distortions.
- Elevated mood
- Sense of deep insight.
Effects are usually felt within 20 to 40 minutes and peak within 3 to 4 hours. Effects usually disappear within about 8 hours. 4
While some of the effects may be positive, many people who abuse morning glory seeds will quickly begin to experience uncomfortable symptoms before they even begin to feel high. For example, they might develop nausea and vomiting shortly after taking the drug. 4,5 Other uncomfortable side effects include:,4,5,6
- Cramping in the stomach.
- Rapid heart rate.
- Increased blood pressure.
- Dilated pupils.
Fatalities from LSA abuse are uncommon and, when they do happen, are often the result of self-harm resulting from severe agitation.6
What is LSD?
LSD is a synthetic drug derived from ergot alkaloids and prepared in a laboratory by chemical synthesis.7 This drug was first isolated by Swiss scientist Albert Hofmann in 1938 but the hallucinogenic effects of the drug were not discovered until Hofmann himself accidentally consumed some of the drug in 1943.8LSD’s effects can be very strong and unpredictable. A user may, at any time, experience a “bad trip” that results in an intensely negative, often quite frightening, experience.8
How Is LSD Abused?
LSD is a classic hallucinogen that elicits its psychoactive/psychedelic effects within 30-90 minutes. Unlike LSA, which may last for 5-8 hours, on average LSD’s subjective effects may persist for as long as 12 hours, in some cases. LSD is rarely associated with nausea, but the substance is consumed differently than LSA. While LSA is most often eaten or added to a beverage as part of the plant product it derives from itself, LSD is most commonly ingested in infinitesimally small microgram doses placed on a small square of paper called a “blotter” or, alternately, as a very small tablet.9
Flashbacks are not among the side effects commonly associated with LSA; however, the phenomenon is well-documented among people who use LSD. Even one use may result in flashbacks, or hallucinogen persisting perception disorder (HPPD). The experience of flashbacks involves a recurrence of sensory and visual distortions produced by LSD, such as halos and trails and seeing motions that aren’t really occurring. The reappearance of such perceptual disturbances can take place months to years after the drug was last taken. 9,10
Effects and Side Effects of LSD Abuse
The psychedelic effects of LSD include the following:9,11
- Intensified sensory experiences.
- Distorted experience of time.
- Depersonalization (feeling detached from or operating independently from one’s mind, body, or surroundings, as if observing).
- Synesthesia, or a blending of sensory experiences, like hearing colors or seeing sounds.
- Feeling of having a deep understanding of something or going through an intensely spiritual experience.
Intoxicating Effects of LSD
The intoxicating effects of LSD may come with a slew of physical side effects, including 9,11 Dilated pupils.
- Blurry vision.
- Flushing of the face.
- Dry mouth.
- Excess salivation.
- High body temperature
- Increased blood pressure.
- Fast breathing.
- Mildly elevated blood sugar.
- Impaired coordination.
- Loss of appetite.
Depending on a person’s mental state at the time they take LSD and their surroundings, one can have a “bad trip” and experience symptoms such as:9,12
- Rapid mood shifts.
- Severe anxiety.
- The sense of losing one’s identity or losing touch with reality.
- Violence toward oneself or others.
- Severe agitation (rare).
Potential Dangers of Psychedelic Abuse
Though LSA has nowhere near the notoriety as a potentially-dangerous substance as LSD, it does have certain risks of its own. Vomiting or diarrhea can lead to dehydration. In some instances, LSA-induced agitation can lead to self-harm or violence towards others.
And while many people may assume LSA is safe because it comes from plants, consuming it has led people to end up in the emergency department.
Abuse of psychedelic drugs like LSD or LSA can have serious adverse consequences, regardless of whether it is a legal or illegal substance.
- Nowak, J., Woźniakiewicz, M., Klepacki, P., Sowa, A., & Kościelniak, P. (2016). Identification and determination of ergot alkaloids in Morning Glory cultivars. Analytical and bioanalytical chemistry, 408(12), 3093–3102.
- J.Carod-Artal. (2015). Hallucinogenic drugs in pre-Columbian Mesoamerican cultures. Neurologia, 30(1), 42-49.
- National Capitol Poison Control Center. (n.d.). Are Morning Glories Poisonous?
- Thies, T. (2009). Legally stoned: 14 mind-altering substances you can obtain and use without breaking the law. New York: Citadel Press.
- Carroll, Linda. (2016). Teens trying to get high sickened after eating flower seeds. Today.com.
- Caffrey, C. R., & Lank, P. M. (2017). When good times go bad: managing ‘legal high’ complications in the emergency department. Open access emergency medicine : OAEM, 10, 9–23. \
- Jenkins, J.P. (n.d.). LSD. Encyclopedia Brittanica.
- History.com. (2018). LSD.
- Center for Substance Abuse Research. (2013). LSD.
- Hermle, L., Simon, M., Ruchsow, M., & Geppert, M. (2012). Hallucinogen-persisting perception disorder. Therapeutic advances in psychopharmacology, 2(5), 199–205.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2019). Hallucinogens.
- Hwang KAJ, Saadabadi A. Lysergic Acid Diethylamide (LSD) [Updated 2019 Mar 25]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2019 Jan-.