Recreational drugs by definition are chemical compounds which are ingested, injected or sniffed in order to induce a delirious or hallucinating state. The mind-altering effects of the recreational drugs are a result of their influence on the central nervous system and the muscles. Most common recreational drugs are caffeine, cannabis, alcohol, opiates, cocaine, amphetamine and LSD. Many of the potent recreational drugs were first discovered in laboratories and synthesized artificially. However, some of the lesser-known psychoactive drugs are derived from natural sources such as fruits, leaves, mushrooms and animals. All of the drugs are legally banned in one form or the other and may cause serious health problems including death.
San Pedro Cactus
San Pedro Cactus is a type of columnar cactus grown in western parts of South America. Though traditional use of the cactus is for medicinal purpose, it was also used by Native Americans as a psychedelic drug during religious ceremonies. The active ingredient present in San Pedro Cactus which acts as a psychoactive drug is Mescaline. Mescaline is also found in some other cactus species including the Peruvian Torch Cactus. Mescaline can be extracted from the cactus by simply boiling pieces of the cactus in water. The subcutaneous layer of green photosynthetic tissue is said to contain the highest concentration of Mescaline. Though the cultivation of the cactus is legal in many countries, possession of purified Mescaline is illegal.
Certain species of toads specially Colorado river toads secrete a type of poison which is also a psychoactive drug. The poison is mainly secreted from the skin of the toad. The original liquid poison is first dried and then ground before being used. The main psychoactive compound found in the poison is Bufotenin. Consumption of Bufotenin causes hallucinations. Hippies are said to ingest Bufotenin in early 1970s as a cheap recreational drug. Though the drug can be milked from the toad without harming it, some drug vendors also sell dried toad skins which when ingested may produce similar effects. The drug is also present in the eggs of the toad. Interestingly, Bufotenin is also present in certain species of Amanita mushrooms, seeds of Anadenanthera plant and the latex secreted from Takini tree.
This innocent looking weed, Datura is the source of dangerous psychoactive compounds such as atropine, scopolamine and hyoscyamine. Datura is also known as devil’s trumpet, thorn apple or Jimson weed. Though all parts of the Datura plant contain the active psychoactive compounds, the seeds and leaves have the highest concentration of them. Datura has been used as a hallucinogenic or delirium-inducing substance by South Asians and Native Americans in religious ceremonies. Ingestion of Datura produces delirium, hallucination, amnesia, hyperthermia, tachycardia and photophobia. The user becomes completely detached from the reality and a little excess can easily bring death.
Psilocybin mushrooms contain powerful psychoactive compounds such as psilocybin and psilocin. These mushrooms have been used to attain a spiritual state of hallucination and euphoria from ancient times. At least 200 species of psilocybin mushrooms are known. Psilocybin when ingested breaks down to produce psilocin which is the causative agent for the hallucinogenic effects. Other psychological effects include depression, delusions, paranoia and nervous breakdown. There are also interesting effects on the senses such as description of warping objects, rippling surfaces, changing colors, changing depth, auras/halos, visual and auditory accuracy and tails from moving objects. Use of psilocybin mushrooms have been made illegal in many countries and classified as a Schedule I drug by United Nations.
Nutmeg seeds and fruits have been used as spice and flavoring agent in many cuisines. Nutmeg oil and nutmeg butter also have many culinary and commercial uses. However, it is a little known fact that whole ground nutmegs in large quantities can produce convulsions, delirium, dehydration and palpitations. The active psychoactive compound present in nutmeg is myristicin. Myristicin can also produce visual distortions, euphoria and paranoia. Nutmeg has been used as an intoxicant in rural parts of India and Indonesia for hundreds of years.