Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Beware of Scary Flowers!

It's been awhile since we had a good fearmongering article in the Sentinel. You know, something about scary loud noises caused by kids exploding soda bottles, or about unlit streetlamps coming to life and killing everyone. Those are great articles, and I've been missing them.

Luckily, today we get this article, ripped from the pages of the Lowell Sun (which has the same parent company and is just as terrible a newspaper as the S&E).

It's about the horrors of Morning Glory abuse, and how "teens" are looking to get high on them. Oh no!

Let's see what our intrepid mountain-of-a-molehill reporter has to say:
Groups of young teenagers would ride their bikes to the garden store to buy packets of morning glory seeds.

Their specific interest in the small black seeds wasn't for gardening, but rather a hallucinogenic high similar to taking LSD.
Teenagers eating legal plant seeds so they can convince themselves they're high? This is trouble!

This is also a topic that pops up every couple of years, when some heroic reporter realizes that yes, some people stupidly try to get high off morning glory seeds. Said reporter then tries to draw public attention to this huge problem and writes a dumb newspaper piece about it.
The chemical is Lysergic Acid Amide (LSA), the same chemical used to make Lysergic Acid Diethylamide, commonly known as LSD.

LSA is derived from ergot, a type of fungus that grows on grains, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Well, if the National Institute on Drug Abuse talks about it, then this must mean it's a dangerous drug, right?

I would have just checked Wikipedia myself, but that's why I'm not a newspaper reporter. Of course, I'd have found out that each seed contains about 10 µg of ergine/LSA, which is sort of interesting.

Anyway, it's well-known that Morning Glory seeds are a source of LSA, and that stupid kids try to use this property to get high (whether they are successful or not is a different story). So why should we, as a society that freaks out about drugs, care? What's the danger?
While LSD has been widely studied and documented, information about LSA isn't listed on the National Institute on Drug Abuse or U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Web sites.

However, because LSA mimics the hallucinogenic effects of LSD, doctors say it could be dangerous.
Know what else "could" be dangerous? Jumping to idiotic conclusions that aren't supported by facts.

LSA is not LSD, just like Ethylene glycol (antifreeze, basically) is not Polyethylene glycol (used in a bunch of stuff, including toothpaste and eyedrops). Little differences matter quite a bit when you're dealing with chemicals.

Furthermore, there are plenty of things that produce hallucinogenic effects, but that doesn't necessarily mean they're dangerous. Unless you think hallucinations themselves are dangerous, which I suppose they are in some situations. Luckily, most of those situations are not ones in which a Morning Glory junkie is going to find himself in.

So, "doctors," care to elaborate?
"LSD is a potent hallucinogenic; not only is there an acute effect, but people get all sorts of flashbacks and psychological damage," said Dr. Wayne Pasanen, vice president of Medical Affairs at Lowell General Hospital and medical director for Habit Management in Lowell.

So far, Pasanen has not seen any cases involving LSA, but Mike Miles, a Dracut School Committee member and Lowell police patrolman, has counseled two teens who have used morning glory seeds to get high.
Okay, so LSD is potentially bad news, because of the highly-scientific dangers of "all sorts of flashbacks" and other vague stuff. I can't argue with those facts!

LSA, which is what we're actually talking about, apparently isn't a huge deal. Dr. Pasanen hasn't seen any cases involving it, though this School Committee cop guy claims that he's known two (2) dumbasses who used it "to get high."

How'd that go?
Miles, a licensed clinical social worker who specializes in child and family therapy and drug and alcohol counseling, said both teens said they became sick to their stomach.
Oh, so those two didn't actually get high. They got sick. From eating a bunch of seeds. It's a drug epidemic!

Maybe someone else can provide better scares?
Other local law enforcement officials in communities surrounding Dracut say they haven't seen any incidents involving morning glory seeds, but are aware that it can be used as a drug.

"It's definitely on our radar," said Chelmsford Deputy Police Chief Scott Ubele.
So, even though they've never seen a case, and even though there's nothing illegal about Morning Glory seeds, the Chelmsford police are aware that some people might use them to try to get high. Hey, so am I! So is everyone reading this blog post. So what?

Maybe another cop will have more information?
In Billerica, Sgt. Roy Frost hasn't seen any cases, but is familiar with the ways morning glory seeds can be manipulated.

"These kids can smoke it (morning glory seeds), they can chew it, or cook with it just like traditional marijuana," Frost said. "With a lot of these drugs, kids unfortunately think it's OK because it hasn't been criminalized."
Again, no cases. Why was this article printed, exactly?

Still, at least Frost knows that this drug, which is nothing like marijuana, is "just like traditional marijuana." He also thinks you can smoke it and cook with it. Since LSA breaks down at high temperatures, either of these techniques will just leave you with seeds that are worthless both for getting high and for growing flowers.

In other words, Frost is totally talking out of his ass. Just like everyone else in this pathetic article.

One more cop!
However, the legality of LSA in morning glory seeds remains murky, said Richardson.

The use of morning glory seeds as an illicit drug is not listed under state law, only under federal law, [Dracut Police Chief Kevin] Richardson said. Local officers do not have the authority to enforce federal statutes, Richardson said.
Allow me to clear up the legality of Morning Glory seeds for this police chief.

They're legal.

There, that wasn't so hard. LSA is indeed a Schedule III controlled substance, but LSA is not the same thing as Morning Glory seeds. The seeds aren't rendered illegal just because eating several hundred of them might get you high. Opium is made from poppies, but that doesn't make poppy-seed bagels illegal.

Okay, enough of this fact-free article full of totally clueless cops. If this is the best they can do to drum up scary outrage about seeds, that's pretty sad. Hell, they didn't even mention that some of the seeds might have been treated with antifungals, which could make you feel lousy if you eat them! Lame.

As for the actual subject of using Morning Glory seeds to get high, it's idiotic. If some dumbass tries it they're not going to die, they pretty much can't overdose, they most likely won't even get high, and they stand a decent chance of ending up with some pretty unpleasant diarrhea.

It's also not the kind of thing anyone's going to do very often, because it's a giant pain for very little reward. Plus, anyone with half a brain is going to make fun of them for doing it in the first place, because it's incredibly lame.

In the end, this is a non-story about something that doesn't seem to be happening very often (two kids with tummy aches does not really support a whole article). It's full of logical fallacies and outright falsehoods, and it lacks any firm grounding in the real world. It also interviewed way too many cops, who are apparently all idiots.

In other words, it's almost a perfect Sentinel Lowell Sun article.

Way to go, MediaNews Group! I eagerly await your expose on the danger of smoking banana peels.