Angel’s trumpet, a poisonous plant popular with Metro Vancouver gardeners for its pungent scent.
METRO VANCOUVER — BC Corrections plans to check the grounds of all its institutions for a commonly sold ornamental plant that contains hallucinogens after 12 inmates ate part of the plant to get high.
The inmates at the Alouette Correctional Centre for Women ate the seeds of angel’s trumpet, a plant popular with Metro Vancouver gardeners for its pungent scent and hanging trumpet-like white, pink, orange, green or red flowers.
The inmates were taken to hospital starting late Sunday for observation after one woman was seen to be hallucinating. They were all released back to custody by Monday morning.
The seeds were taken from angel’s trumpets growing as ornamental plants near Alouette’s medium security building, said Marnie Mayhew, director of programs and strategic services for BC Corrections.
She said BC Corrections has removed all the angel’s trumpet from Alouette and is checking on the other eight correctional centres in B.C. for it and any other “noxious plants.” She said it was the first time anything like this had ever occurred at Alouette.
“Despite available supports and strict protocols, people with addictions will take extraordinary measures in an attempt to become intoxicated,” Mayhew said in a statement.
Angel’s trumpet is sold at local garden stores. It has been known to survive for years in pots by spending the summers outside and then being cut down and taken indoors in the fall.
Angel’s trumpet, of the genus Brugmansia, contains two hallucinogens: scopolamine and hyoscyamine, the latter which is known to give sensations of flying. It is one of the ingredients in ayahuasca, a powerful psychedelic brew that originated in South America.
Taking angel’s trumpet and similar substances is such an unpleasant experience, few people ever want to repeat it, said Dr. Roy Purssell, medical director of B.C.’s drug and poison information centre. The effects of angel’s trumpet can last an average of 16 hours.
“It is extremely unpleasant as far as an altered state of consciousness,” he said, referring to case histories. “They all look like that they wished this had not occurred to them. I think it’s the way their mental state gets altered in a way that’s really quite unpleasant.”
He couldn’t recall any examples of poisoning or overdosing from angel’s trumpet being reported to the B.C. drug and poison information centre. The usual way of ingesting angel’s trumpet is by brewing it like a tea, he said.
Angel’s trumpet is anticholinergic, which means it can cause acute drying of the user’s mouth and skin.
Concerned that reports of taking angel’s trumpet may lead to copycat cases among students, Dr. Purssell said one of its effects is complete loss of judgment. There have been reported deaths not from taking angel’s trumpet but from the reckless acts that people do while under its influence.
“They’re simply unable to assess the risks of what they’re doing and can do something very dangerous,” he said.
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