By Shelley Grieshop
Area teens are getting high on the seeds of a popular flower that could cause severe health problems when ingested.
Several weeks ago the Darke County Sheriff's Office discovered several young teens in the Arcanum area were buying large quantities of morning glory seeds to eat for hallucinogenic purposes. To halt the juvenile's actions, some store owners recently began carding customers -- preventing anyone under age 18 from purchasing the seeds.
Detective Sgt. Mark Whittaker said the issue arose when an Arcanum store owner reported selling out of the flowering seeds to junior high- and early high school-aged teens. He notified authorities.
"The retailer was getting calls every day from students asking when more of the seeds would be coming in," Whittaker said. "He realized then what was going on."
This is the first time the sheriff's office has dealt with the problem of kids getting high on the seeds of the pansy-looking flower. Detectives fear it could be a trend for young people who aren't aware of the health risks. "It appears some of the kids did get sick," Whittaker said.
Morning Glory seeds contain a naturally occurring chemical called lysergic acid amide (LSA), a compound that produces the psychedelic effect sought by users. LSA is closely related to the synthetic drug LSD but is only about 5 to 10 percent as potent.
The use of morning glory seeds, also called "tlitlitzin," to produce euphoric sensations isn't new. The practice dates back to religious rituals performed by the Aztecs in the 1400s.
The small seeds, although bitter, can be eaten whole or the active alkaloids can be extracted by different methods. Users reach mild effects of the drug with as few as 25-50 seeds, though most ingest between 100-400 to reach desired effects. The high takes effect in about an hour, depending on other foods eaten prior, and can last up to 10 hours.
Chewing and swallowing the seeds or ingesting the LSA after extraction also can cause extreme illness.
Whittaker said his goal is to educate the public -- particularly teens -- to the risks involved. He's also asking for help from retailers throughout the area.
"Many of the businesses have voluntarily quit selling the seeds to anyone under 18," Whittaker said.
Whittaker also has contacted neighboring law enforcement agencies and given them a heads up on the problem. Mercer County Sheriff Jeff Grey said, so far, he's not heard of any problems with the sale or use of the seeds.
"Hopefully parents will sit down with their kids and talk about this," Grey said.
Law enforcement agencies in Mercer and Auglaize counties are asking retail store and greenhouse owners to contact them if they encounter any suspicious purchases of the seeds.
Whittaker said morning glory seeds are just one of many items listed on "pro-drug" Web sites for teens seeking new ways to get stoned. Although law enforcement agencies despise the online sites, the cyberspace blogs can help them fight the war on drugs, he said.
"It helps us keep up on what's popular, what's going on out there and what to look for," he added.