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Natural Psychoactive Substances
December 6, 2019

Natural Psychoactive Substances Increase Calls to Poison Control


Study Reveals the Dangers of Natural Psychoactive Substances

Humans have used substances with psychoactive effects for religious and medicinal purposes for thousands of years. Due to a lack of regulation, these drugs have become widely available to the public, particularly through the avenue of online shopping. Because substances like kratom and mushrooms are “natural,” many individuals falsely believe this means they have no potential for harm or abuse. A recent study indicates that natural psychoactive substances may be generating more cause for concern than previously believed.

Calls to Poison Control

The Center for Injury Research and Policy and the Central Ohio Poison Center at Nationwide Children’s Hospital conducted a retrospective study about recent calls to poison control centers. They examined calls from the years of 2000 through 2017 for association with natural psychoactive substances. Researchers discovered that in that time frame, there were 67,369 calls regarding exposure to natural psychoactive substances, averaging 3,743 per year.

Those most likely to call were above the age of 19 (41.4%) or between the ages of 13 and 19 (34.8%). The substances most commonly associated were marijuana (46.9%), anticholinergic plants (21.1%) and hallucinogenic mushrooms (15.6%). Kratom, khat, anticholinergic plants, and hallucinogenic mushrooms were those most likely to result in hospital admission and serious medical outcomes.

Perhaps most concerning, the overall rate of exposure to natural psychoactive substances increased by almost 75% between the years of 2000 and 2017. This is primarily accounted for by an increase in exposure to marijuana and kratom. Kratom saw a statistically significant 4,948.9% increase between the years of 2011 to 2017 and was responsible for 8 of the 42 deaths identified in the study. 

Study Reveals Hazards of Psychoactive Drugs

Drugs examined in the study reflect many of the more common natural psychoactive substances on the market. They include…


The dried leaves, flowers, stems, and seeds from the Cannabis sativa or Cannabis indica plant, which are smoked or ingested. Contains the psychoactive chemical THC and other similar compounds. Is the most commonly used illicit drug in America. [Source]

Anticholinergic Plants

Usually the roots, leaves, and seeds of a substance like Datura stramonium (Jimson Weed), which is smoked, ingested, or brewed into teas. One hundred seeds contain up to 6 mg of atropine, which blocks the action of the neurotransmitter acetycholine, causes anticholinergic toxicity, and may be fatal. [Source]

Hallucinogenic Mushrooms

Wild or cultivated mushrooms that contain psilocybin, which are ingested, smoked, or brewed like tea. Effects may last up to six hours and impact the serotonin levels of the brain. [Source]

Morning Glory Plants

Also known as Ipomoea violacea, morning glories are a standard garden plant. Seeds are ingested and contain D-lysergic acid amide (LSA), a precursor chemical to LSD. May trigger a high degree of discomfort in the user. [Source]


The seed or ground spice of many plants of the genus Myristica. When consumed in large dosages, the substance creates hallucinogenic effects. Contains myristicin. [Source]


Parts of the cactus crown from the peyote cactus (Lophophora williamsii). Considered a stimulant drug. Contains the psychoactive chemical mescaline. [Source]


The leaves of a tropical tree native to Southeast Asia: Mitragyna speciosa. May be smoked, ingested, chewed as a leaf, or brewed as a tea. Contains mitragynine and 7-a-hydroxymitragynine, which interact with receptors in the brain. [Source]

Kava Kava

Made from the roots of Piper methysticum, a plant originating on the Pacific Islands. The roots are dried or crushed into a powder and are traditionally consumed by drinking after mixing with water. Today, the substance is available in capsules, tablets, or tinctures. Psychoactive effects are caused by kavapyrones, also called kavalactones. [Source]

Salvia Species

Traditionally brewed from the leaves of Salvia divinorum, this substance is now available to be ingested, smoked, or drank. The psychoactive ingredient is salvinorin A, a kappa opioid receptor agonist. [Source]


A distilled alcoholic beverage made of anise, fennel, and a type of wormwood called Artemisia abinthium, in combination with other herbs and flowers. The psychoactive chemical thujone is a GABA inhibitor and is introduced through the incorporation of wormwood. [Source]


Similar to cocaine, the leaves of the African shrub Catha edulis are used for stimulant and psychoactive purposes. Contains the psychoactive alkaloid cathinone. [Source]

How to Tell if Someone is Addicted to Psychoactives

Unfortunately, as the study indicates, countless people have begun to misuse psychoactive substances on a regular basis. Addiction is a progressive disease – this means that eventually, drug-seeking and drug-using behavior escalate over time.

As an individual’s condition worsens, you may notice certain signs of addiction to psychoactives. These include:

  • Change in behavior – Someone using psychoactive drugs may seem “out of it” or have difficulty tracking with conversations. They may stop listening in the middle of conversations or have trouble remembering what you have asked them to do.
  • Change in appearance – Those who are regularly using drugs may exhibit a haggard appearance; their personal hygiene becomes unimportant in the process of finding and taking psychoactive substances. If your loved one has recently lost or gained a significant amount of weight, this can also be an indication that something is wrong.
  • Change in priorities – People in active addiction prioritize substance use over everything else. This means that chores, career responsibilities, social commitments, relationships, and hobbies will all fall by the wayside in favor of drug use.
  • Financial difficulties – Individuals who are addicted to drugs may suddenly seem to be short on cash or “forget” to pay their bills. They may ask friends or family members to aid them financially, even when this is very out of character. You should also be on the lookout for random cash withdrawals from ATMs or suspicious online purchases.

If you have observed any of these symptoms, it is time to seek help.

Psychoactive Drug Addiction Treatment

Professional addiction treatment incorporates behavioral, physical, social, and emotional changes to one’s lifestyle. After an individual is physically stabilized and all traces of the substance have been removed from the body, the emotional and mental work of treatment can begin.

By utilizing medication management and therapeutic intervention services, individuals work through the factors fueling their substance use. Behavioral therapies like CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) help people to cope with cravings, avoid drugs, and change self-destructive attitudes. Group sessions create an environment of camaraderie and support, ensuring that no one feels alone in their journey to recovery. Through a combination of 12-Step curriculum and evidence-based practices, individuals can begin to get their lives back.

At Beach House, we help individuals to find freedom from their history of drug addiction. Our flexible detox and treatment programs span time periods from seven to 60 days, depending on your unique situation and needs. Call us at (877) 419-3281 or contact us online for more information.