By Chris May
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Parents beware!
Your teenager’s next high may not come from a drug purchased on the street, but from one picked in the backyard.
They’re beautiful and delicate looking flowers that also happen to be deadly. In a growing and disturbing trend, young adults are using these flowers to get a high and hallucinate.
Part of the Datura plant family, they grow everywhere, flourishing in parks, yards and next to schools.
“I heard about it from a friend; it was growing in his mom’s garden,” said a young man who didn’t want to be identified.
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He knows how easy the flowering plant is to find and use.
“It was just really, really intense — seeing people that weren’t there, talking to people that weren’t there,” he explained.
It turned out to be worse than he ever imagined. His reaction went beyond the expected hallucinogenic high.
“It was horrible, and it lasted two days. The after-effects were terrible,” he said. “We got blurry vision; we actually thought we were going blind.”
User after user tells the same horrible tale.
“My trip lasted over 30 hours. You really can’t tell the difference between what’s real and what’s a dream,” said a female user who also did not want to be identified.
And for many, that dream became a nightmare of anxiety, heart palpitations, severe paranoia and vomiting.
“We found out later that we were poisoned,” said the young man. That’s right, poisoned.
Thousands of people chase the flower’s high all the way to the hospital each year, according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers.
Hundreds more chase it to the grave.
“My fear is that more and more people are going to die from taking this,” said drug counselor John Corbett.
Corbett says it’s a growing problem fueled by the internet.
“How do we know that somebody is not going to react in a negative way and be caught in a trip that they can’t be brought out of?” Corbett said.
“Within any plant, there are certain types of protective compounds,” said William Hlubik, a Rutgers University professor of agriculture.
Hlubik says Datura plants contain dangerous and toxic compounds.
“Anyone who tries to experiment with these plants is in danger if they don’t have a lot of knowledge of the concentration or potency,” he said.
“It’s not what you think it’s going to be,” agreed the young man who used the plant.
He learned his lesson the hard way and now wants to warn others about the beautiful flower’s ugly side.
“Don’t do it, absolutely don’t do it,” he warned other would-be users.
Datura is on Pennsylvania’s Noxious Weed List, which means it is against the law to sell, transport or plant it in the Keystone state.
And in New Jersey, it’s illegal to use, possess or sell the plant.