Nutmeg can cause psychosis

The green kick

Natural drugs

The green kick

From Bettina Sauer


They are easily available and are considered harmless: natural drugs such as magic sage, intoxicating mushrooms or nutmeg are all the rage. The federal government is concerned about this.


He could have put more into the water pipe, he thought. Then the effect occurred: “My feet flowed upwards. The legs followed, my whole lower body flowed past my face, over my head, behind my back into me. Then my body muddled, muddled with the whole world. Like liquid wax that someone stirs vigorously. «This is how a consumer on the Internet describes his intoxication with Salvia divinorum.


The plant comes from Mexico and is popularly called fortune telling, Aztec or magic sage. It contains salvinorin, the "most potent naturally occurring hallucinogen" according to the Federal Center for Health Education (BZgA). In the past, Mexican shamans used the leaves to put themselves into a trance. Recently, »Salvianauts« have been moving into undreamt-of spheres in this country. And quite legally.


This could change now. A month ago, on July 16, the competent committee of experts recommended that magic sage be included in Appendix 1 of the Narcotics Act. Then trafficking in it would be a criminal offense, similar to that in heroin, ecstasy or hashish. The federal government is currently dealing with the proposal. She announced this last week in her answer to a small question from Bündnis 90 / Die Grünen parliamentary group. "With concern" she viewed "the increasing spread" of Salvia divinorum and other natural drugs. Because their consumption could lead to severe changes in consciousness, psychoses and other health problems.


"In its response, however, the federal government was unable to name any damage or dependency development in connection with magic sage," says the Berlin pharmacist Tibor Harrach. He worked as an appraiser in litigation against a Berliner who had imported 81 kilograms of Salvia divinorum from Mexico.


Increased demand


About 60 native plants and mushrooms have intoxicating properties. There are also exotic species that can be cultivated in this country or obtained from the Internet. In addition to magic sage, favorites include psilocybe mushrooms, angel's trumpet, deadly nightshade and thorn apple, according to the experience of social worker Mona Klerings from the Hamburg advanced training institute drugs and AIDS (HIDA). For about ten years now, she has been receiving more and more advice from consumers, parents and teachers. This prompted her to write a guidebook on the subject. Most natural drugs are legal and have a hallucinogenic effect, regardless of the sometimes very different chemical structure of the ingredients. Under their influence in the brain, sensory and self-perceptions as well as the perception of space and time change or distort.


No hard numbers


"The assumption that there is a trend towards biogenic drugs is based on individual studies, case reports and the presence of the substances on the Internet," emphasizes the psychologist Dr. Tim Pfeiffer-Gerschel. He heads the German Reference Center of the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction in Munich. "So far there has been no systematic recording." After all, it is virtually impossible to document the large number of consumer environments and the mostly legally available plants. "That's why I stubbornly refuse to give any figures."


In 2004, the drug affinity study of the BZgA came to the result that about the same number of twelve to 25-year-olds had experiences with psychoactive mushrooms and plants as with ecstasy: around 4 percent each. Regular surveys in the model cities of Hamburg and Frankfurt and a Europe-wide survey by the European Drugs Monitoring Center come up with results of a similar order of magnitude for the consumption of mushrooms containing psilocybin.


"On the one hand, adults who are looking for spiritual experiences use natural drugs," says Klerings. »They often receive guidance, for example from a shaman.« Adolescents and young adults, on the other hand, are more curious and in a mood to experiment. »The kick from hallucinogenic drugs is highly individual and always unexpected. While many experience the effects of ecstasy like episodes of an endless series of early evening series, natural drugs offer them each time as a completely new film. «This experience could contribute to creating a psychological dependence. "In addition, a feeling of loss of control and excessive demands can arise." Therefore, most of the substances were not suitable as party drugs. Consumption is more likely to take place alone or in small groups, often with a retreat into nature.


In addition to the effect of intoxication, it is their availability that makes the plants attractive. You can cultivate them yourself or get them for free from the forest, garden or spice rack. Klerings sees the Internet as an important cause of the trend: "It forms the platform for buying substances or exchanging information about their use."


Many consumers consider them largely harmless. After all, they have the "quality mark of nature," says Klerings. “That's why I warn against calling them bio-drugs. In our memory is bio-stored as something good, pure, unencumbered. Hardly anyone is aware that the plants and mushrooms contain highly effective chemical compounds. "


Which are also unpredictable because their salary can fluctuate very strongly. "In addition, the body reacts very differently to it, depending on weight, constitution and the use of other intoxicants," says doctor Dr. Maren Hermanns-Clausen, who heads the poisoning information center in Freiburg. Similar to the number of consumers, there is also a lack of systematic surveys with regard to health risks. “Only the poison information centers register all inquiries according to the individual drugs,” says Hermanns-Clausen. "As a rule, there are not that many, but only the tip of the iceberg ends up with us."


In addition to the risk of poisoning or having an accident while intoxicated, Hermann-Clausen sees great dangers in the psychological area. "Hallucinogenic drugs create an artificial psychosis, a very intense, sometimes frightening experience to which one is helpless," says Klerings. "How well you process it later depends very much on what experiences and problems you are dealing with." Depending on their predisposition, users of hallucinogenic drugs can even "get stuck" on their trip, i.e. develop a permanent psychosis or other mental illness. "In the hope of a breathtaking experience, young people take a high risk," says Hermanns-Clausen.


As a sign not to play down natural drugs, she considers bans to be entirely justified. Pfeiffer-Gerschel says: "A ban offers an opportunity to inquire about the natural drug in question in future consumption studies and to research it in more detail." However, Klerings warns against a policy that relies solely on the wagging index finger. Rather, one must accept the consumption of natural drugs as a fact and make it as harmless as possible through education and other "safer use" approaches. In addition to the warning, the Internet portals of the BZgA and from the Hamburg Advanced Training Institute for Drugs and AIDS also serve this purpose.


"It is better if we give the information than dubious network providers," says Klerings. Harrach considers »the criminalization of the largely inconspicuous consumers of magic sage via the Narcotics Act to be a dangerous mistake. Experience has shown that this will drive them away from information and help offers. A ban, on the other hand, does not reduce consumption. ”Klerings wonders how the use of natural drugs can be monitored at all. The harvest season for psilocybe mushrooms is gradually beginning again in this country. They have been banned since 2005.