Roadside drug of choice
Date: Fri, 16 Sep 94 13:27:00 PDT
Subject: Roadside drug of choice
Where the longhorn cattle feed
On the lonely jimson weed,
I'm back in the saddle again.
- Back In The Saddle Again
now we know what those cattle were up to... -psl]
Forwarded-by: bostic@CS.Berkeley.EDU (Keith Bostic)
Forwarded-by: email@example.com (John P. Kole)
Forwarded-by: lindsey (Norman Lindsey)
Forwarded-by: firstname.lastname@example.org (Adam E. Schwartz)
EL PASO, Texas (Reuter) - A free-growing roadside weed,
known commonly as ``loco weed,'' is gaining popularity as a
hallucinogenic drug, health officials say.
Jimson weed can be fatal, but unlike other drugs it is legal
and free, and grows everywhere in the United States except
Alaska, health officials said in recent interviews.
Twelve people were poisoned, including two who died, in El
Paso this year after using the weed, a poisonous, tall, course
weed that is a source of stramonium, used in medicine for the
treatment of asthma.
National figures were unavailable for 1994, but 318 Jimson
weed poisoning cases were reported in 1993, Rose Ann Soloway,
clinical toxicologist at the poison control central in
She said although there is a problem, ``in terms of numbers
it's not huge.''
However, in El Paso, ``The use is widespread,'' said Dr.
Miguel Escobedo, director of El Paso Preventative Health
Services. ``And it's (the weed) everywhere. I can see it growing
from where I'm sitting.''
The toxicity of the plant, which apparently was used by
American Indians hundreds of years ago, changes from season to
season and plant to plant, making it impossible to produce a
recipe for a safe ``trip,'' Escobedo said.
Two 16-year-old boys died from jimson weed poisoning in June
after they boiled weed roots and then drank a cup each. Two of
their friends who survived said they drank smaller amounts and
The weed, which has bell-shaped flowers, a stout stem and is
about 4 feet tall, affects the nervous system, Escobedo said.
El Paso health officials hoped the two deaths would scare
teen-agers and curtail usage.
But a local high school senior said a flyer was sent out
shortly after the 1994 school year started in late August
announcing a party where ``crazy weed'' would be available.
``I don't really know too much about it,'' the student said.
''It's just this new drug that a lot of kids are doing.''
Sergeant Robert Coleman with the El Paso police narcotics
squad said Jimson weed may be gaining in popularity in high
schools, but is still not nearly as popular as cocaine, crack
Law enforcement officials say their hands are tied because
the weed is not illegal. ``There isn't a whole lot we can do and
we don't have a lot of information on it,'' Coleman said.
© 1994 Peter Langston