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Deadly 'heroin addict' plant kills Australian sheep by making them suicidal

  1. ZenobiaSky
    View attachment 38802 Thousands of sheep in New South Wales, Australia, are getting high on a rare, toxic pea plant which spread after the devastating bush fires last January

    A poisonous plant which makes sheep behave like 'heroin addicts' is turning them suicidal by causing them to bash their own skulls open on rocks.

    The darling pea is a highly addictive plant which is killing the farm animals across the region, making them act 'drunk' and out of control - leading to their death.

    Local veterinarian Bob McKinnon said: "They lose weight to start with and then get staggery, the progression gets worse, they get uncoordinated and depressed, they don't know where their feet are."

    He also said they displayed symptoms of 'staring eyes', 'head pressing' and 'muscle tremors' until they eventually 'just go to a post and bang their head on it till they crack their heads open'.

    Mr McKinnon added: "It's like dealing with a thousand heroin addicts."

    Farmers Stephen and Louise Knight have lost 800 sheep to the deadly plant, which is from the Swainsona family of desert peas which is native to Australia.

    It attacks by building up toxins in the animals who graze on it for extended periods then attacks an enzyme in their metabolism - and cripples the animal's central nervous system.

    Mrs Knight said: "It was just devastating, they weren't there when we went to get them.

    "The fire was a distressing thing to have happen, we lost so many stock, fences, pasture - and then for it to come back with a terrible noxious plant like this, it's awful and very distressing."

    There is no known cure for the affliction, other than weaning the animals off the plant.

    By Jessica Haworth
    22 May 2014 | 08:04 |
    FOCUS News Agency

    The Newhawks Crew


  1. dr ACE
    poor sheep,its not there fault these toxic plants are in the pastures
  2. TheBigBadWolf
    I am so very bored by any journalists who pull the drug addict schemes.
    I ve not once in twenty years watched a heroin addict bash their head against stones..

    and yes, poor sheep...
    maybe there's more to.sheep.farming than having.them.out in the pastures.. maintenance would be an idea...

  3. Name goes here
    Maybe planting poppy plants will kill off the toxic flower and give the sheep the much needed mood lift and reason to live. Makes as much sense as comparing a neurotoxic plant to using heroin.

    Stupidest journalism ever.
  4. D0pe
    I have actually seen a Heroin addict bash his head into a concrete wall, stick his foot under a moving car going 50mph, and even use a knife to cut themselves up.. For the purposes of going to the hospital and getting dope..

    BUt i have not seen 800 of them die all at once in a confined relative area.. So yea using drugs as a way to connect with the reader along with the toxic effects of the plant is useless... Among other reasons that are obvious..

    Seems kind of sheepish to me..
  5. MikePatton
    Comparing the sheeps to drug addicts is highly inappropriate and pretty offensive to addicts, and the sheep. This could have been a fascinating article, thousands of ship commit massive suicide as a result of consuming a rare, exotic toxic plant - that could have been one of the most intriguing things I've read in a long time.

    But that terrible excuse for a journalist had to report that the sheep are "getting high" (seriously? Can you really call that a high?) and say they are acting just like a bunch of drug addicts, which is apparently another name for being suicidal. He just had to make the article "sensational" and "spice it up", and he just ruined a great story.
  6. ErrorInTheMachine
    That's wildly offensive to addicts, especially being that in the USA, state-funded rehabilitation centers teach the addict that it is not his/her fault--and one is born an addict. I disagree, but that's besides the point.

    I agree with the above poster, I think there needs to be a motion against this sort of thing. Being an addict does not make one a suicidal creature whose brain is deteriorating from "neurotoxins" (the most vague term the 'journalist' could have used). Furthermore, to make this comparison is stating that addiction mmakes the addict too mentally incapable to stop, too physically wounded to want to, and the word 'offensive' doesn't even begin to describe this mess of an 'article.'

    Here's an idea: everytime someone bashes addicts publicly in this way, a new worldwide law gets passed (by the people who aren't in power) that makes it punishable by living for 1-12 months as a full blown heroin+methamphetamine addict. Eventually they'd stop making horribly offensive articles.

    At any rate, I hope this journalist gets a massive whole-body botfly infestation :mad: until he becomes these sheep :banghead:
  7. ZenobiaSky
    I find outrageous articles like this and can't help but post then, knowing it will lead to some interesting comments

    The vet even describes symptoms related to eating something toxic, but not symptoms of heroin addition. My question is how exactly do they determine that these sheep ar suicidal? I was unaware of this new technology to determine if sheep or any animals were depressed or suicidal, and wonder when this technique will be practiced in the us.

    I mean I would hope they would be using more than one criteria to determine this, and are not just saying that because they bashed their skulls in that means they are suicidal, there is a number of reasons they may have done this, Including trying to get the symptoms to stop plus a host of other things
  8. ErrorInTheMachine
    Aside from the single fact that theyre consuming a "neurotoxin" (whatever that is, since there are well over 1000 compounds that are neurotoxic), I think its a bunch of heresay.

    One cannot simply ask a sheep how its feeling. This could be an effect on certain mammalian species, very much like the corticeps fungus that causes ants (specifically ants) to climb as high as possible before sprouting corticeps spores from their brains. They don't climb high because they want to jump off and die, nor are they afraid of the ground they once inhabited; they are compelled by the fungus, like a sort of dementia.

    It would be ridiculous to say this is, in any way, shape, or form, like heroin (other than it being an addictive molecular structure). Heroin is a sedating, euphoric, analgesic opioid whose primary purpose in the body is to alleviate physical pain--and whose side effects are generally anorexia, drowsiness, and doesn't harm the brain, it simply modifies it; this, on the other hand, is a "neurotoxin" that degrades brain function, eats away at synapses and causes tremors and eventually somehow compels the sheep to bash their heads open.

    I don't see a comparison here; it is all heresay with a single vague fact. "Neurotoxin." --HAH! New article: Journalist Does No Scientific Research...oh wait...that's common. :rolleyes:
  9. Basoodler
    Swainsonine: It’s Locoweed, not Heroin

    by Justin, naturespoisons.com
    May 19

    That’s the*catchy headline of a recent article about mass sheep poisonings, and the full article can be read here. It’s meant to entice the headline reader to click through to read the article. I get it. Journalism, however you want to define it, is a business. And businesses such as these need readers. The problem with this headline is that it has nothing to do with heroin – despite the quote from the rancher that led to the headline – and the fact is the sheep did not die a heroin overdose-like death. So even though we are talking about sheep, it can give uninformed readers impressions about those that do succumb to heroin addiction with quotes such as “bashing their heads open ‘like heroin addicts’.”

    Heroin addicts look like you or me, in all shapes, sizes, colors, ages and genders. While I*am not an expert in drug addiction – I’m an expert on the death side of things – I can guarantee you heroin addicts aren’t bashing their heads open. People that die due to heroin, or other opiate/opioid, intoxication primarily do so via respiratory depression and pulmonary edema (1). It can be a quick death, or a slow, lingering one. The tolerance to respiratory depression is much slower to develop than tolerance to the euphoric effects, thus experienced users are usually more at risk of overdose. Either way, the victim is usually unconscious and unaware of their dire situation.

    But I do want to talk about this story, as it highlights another of Nature’s Poisons, and a serious issue for ranchers. Following a brushfire in the*Warrumbungle National Park located in New South Wales, Australia, the poisonous “darling pea” took over and led to the death of 800 sheep. The darling pea,*Swainsona galegifolia, belongs to the*Fabaceae family, which is commonly known as the legume, or bean, family. If you think about all of the different peas and beans in society, you can see how important it is to the economy and diet of billions of people.


    But that’s not the darling pea. The darling pea is vicious and has a negative economic and dietary impact. All of this is due to a simple chemical made by the darling pea: swainsonine. I say it’s simple, and it is if you’re a plant, but if you’re a synthetic organic chemist in a lab you’re looking at 12-15 steps and multiple chiral centers to contend with – it’s a challenge, but so much fun (2, 3). Swainsonine inhibits glycoside hydrolases – enzymes that hydrolyse (break apart by adding water) glycosidic (sugar) bonds. Easy, huh? And you thought biochemistry was hard. These enzymes are important because they break down complex carbohydrates into simple sugars. Inhibition of this enzyme leads to the build up of carbohydrates in the cell, resulting in cell death. *Additionally, the hydrolases breakdown glycoproteins into – you guessed it – proteins and sugar. An accumulation of glycoproteins interferes with cellular communication in the nervous system, which gives rise to the clinical symptoms of swainsonine poisoning (4).

    Many symptoms of swainsonine poisoning resemble those of chronic alcohol intoxication, which if you want to get technical is also a poisoning. The symptoms include: sluggish gait, depression, weight loss, a staring gaze, and general uncoordination (4). [In the United States, any swainsonine containing plant is called "locoweed", which clues you in to its actions.] *The effects on the nervous system is permanent, and the animals never fully recover. If chronically poisoned, livestock may experience infertility, abortion, cardiovascular disease, and death (4). But it’s not just the darling pea grazer that is affected. Pregnant livestock that are poisoned will give birth to babies with skeletal deformities. So not only is the current generation affected, but the next as well.

    It is easy to see, now, how drastic this is to the affected Australian sheep ranchers. They lost over 800 sheep, and with decreased libido in the males, possible abortions in the females, and birth defects if they do deliver, the effects will be seen for years, with a huge economic impact. The totality and severity of the situation doesn’t need an inaccurate and misleading headline, just a straightforward and honest one. The sheep deserve it.

    Thanks to John Robertson of The Poison Garden for bringing this article to my attention.

    *** Homepage featured image of*darling pea*by David Lochlin via Flickr (CC BY 2.0) ***

    1.*White, Jason M., and Rodney J. Irvine. “Mechanisms of Fatal Opioid Overdose.”Addiction

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