Store clerks at Almo's Flower & Garden Center initially thought it was a little strange.
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.
"They're (teens) chewing them and swallowing them, and a chemical in the seeds is giving them a hallucinogenic high," warned Dracut Police Chief Kevin Richardson.
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.
Andy Daigle, a manager at Almo's contacted police after realizing the seeds were being used as illicit drugs."One kid said I take it and I hallucinate for six hours," Daigle said.
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.
"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
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.
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.
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.
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."
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, Richardson said. Local officers do not have the authority to enforce federal statutes, Richardson said.
Dracut Deputy Police Chief David Chartrand has spoken to all of the town's retailers that sell morning glory seeds to make them aware of their potential abuse.
At Almo's, the store has adopted a new policy to only sell morning glory seeds to people 18 and older. "Kids have not purchased them since," Daigle said. "One kid came in and saw the sign and left."
By Bridget Scrimenti
06/16/2009 06:37:36 AM EDT
Sentinel and Enterprise