Overview: Jimson weed is a common name for a plant
known botanically as Datura stramonium, which has been
used as a medicine and intoxicant for centuries. The plant’s
main ingredients are the belladonna alkaloids atropine and scopolamine.
Since Jimson weed is native to much of the U.S. (from New England
to Texas), it’s most often used by young people in those areas
unfamiliar with its reputation and unprepared for its side effects.
Street Names: Thornapple, stinkweed, locoweed
Appearance: Jimson weed can reach
a height of 5 feet, bearing white flowers and prickly seed pods
that split open when ripe, usually in fall.
Effects: The phrase “Red as a beet, dry as a bone,
blind as a bat, mad as a hatter” has been used to describe
Jimson’s effects, and it does a good job of summing them up.
All parts of the plant are toxic, so pleasant effects are limited
— a big reason the plant is used only by novices. Atropine and
scopolamine block the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, causing
dry mouth, dilated pupils, high temperature (but reduced sweating),
and blurred vision. Psychological effects include confusion,
euphoria, and delirium.
Side Effects/Risks: Potential for accidental poisoning increases
with higher doses. Symptoms include incoherent speech, impaired
coordination; rapid heart beat; and dry, flushed or hot skin.
In extreme cases, users can experience seizures, intense visual
or auditory hallucinations, or cardiac arrest. A Jimson weed
overdose should be considered potentially serious and medical
Addiction Potential: Since Jimson weed’s effects aren’t generally
considered pleasurable, addiction usually isn’t a factor.
Medical Uses: Because of its anticholinergic properties
and antispasmodic effects, Jimson weed was used in traditional
medicine to treat a variety of illnesses. Today, extracts are
still used in treating asthma, intestinal cramps, and both diarrhea
Duration: Depends on dose, with most effects beginning
within two hours of use and some lingering up to 24-48 hours.
Legal Issues: Jimson weed is not a controlled substance.
Trends: Most Jimson weed use tends to be of the one-time-only,
thrill-seeking or curiosity variety, typically involving younger
teens. Few statistics are available on use, but in 2009, only
987 cases of poisoning by anticholinergic plants (including Jimson
weed) were reported nationally, according to the American Association
of Poison Control Centers.