Dec
14
2019

When Natural Substances Turn Into Poison

Although people increased the use of brain stimulating substances in the last 17 years, nobody paid attention to the situation, when natural substances turn into poison. The Center for Injury Research and Policy and the Ohio State University College of Medicine, both in Columbus, OH conducted a study. The researchers looked at the use of natural substances from 2000 to 2017. They noted that during this time marijuana had increased by 150% and there was a 64% increase of nutmeg use. Nutmeg contains the hallucinogenic substance myristicin, a potent mind-altering substance. There was a 4949% increase of kratom use, which comes from the leaves of a South American tree which have powerful mind-altering substances. The original study of the researchers was published here.

More hallucinogenic substances

Other natural substances came from Jimson weed, where the leaves and seeds contain natural substances that cause hallucinations and euphoria. It contains the chemicals atropine, hyoscyamine, and scopolamine. These interfere with the normal messenger molecule acetylcholine in the brain and in nerves. 21% of all toxic reactions between 2000 and 2107 were due to Jimson weed. Besides those, 16% of all toxic reactions came from magic mushrooms. There are other natural substances which are similar. They come from a shrub that grows in East Africa and southern Arabia. Khat contains the alkaloid cathinone, which is a stimulant. It causes excitement, loss of appetite, and euphoria.

More details about the different natural substances and their actions

Marijuana

Marijuana includes dried leaves, the stem, seeds and flowers of the Cannabis sativa or Cannabis indica plant. The mind-altering THC compounds are what people are seeking out. When a person smokes marijuana, the THC enters the blood through the lungs. The THC reaches the brain and causes a “high”. This can be associated with seeing brighter colors, get an altered sense of time, have hallucinations, delusions and in severe cases a psychosis. Marijuana peaks at different times depending on whether it is smoked or taken in as an edible. When smoked, the effect of marijuana is felt by the user within a few minutes. Ingested as edibles will take 30 minutes to one hour to show an effect, but it lasts a lot longer (3 to 4 hours). This is important to know, particularly if other agents including alcohol are combined with marijuana.

Nutmeg

Nutmeg is used in small amounts as a spice, typically ¼ to ½ teaspoon in a family dinner. However, when a person consumes 2 teaspoons or more of nutmeg, such as more than 10 mg, toxic symptoms occur. Symptoms from myristicin, the active substance in nutmeg, can be hallucinations, dizziness, confusion and seizures.

Kratom

Kratom is a tropical tree (Mitragyna speciosa), which is native in Southeast Asia. The leaves contain mind-altering compounds. At this time kratom is freely available on the Internet. There is no restriction in the US. But there are health concerns. Kratom has both opioid and stimulant effects on the brain. It produces sensations of pleasure, sedation and decreased pain. In small amounts people experience increased energy, sociability and alertness. There are a number of side effects: nausea, sweating, itchiness, dry mouth, increased urination, constipation, loss of appetite, hallucination and seizures. Kratom caused 8 of the 42 deaths reported by the Ohio State University College of Medicine, Columbus, OH study.

Jimson weed

The leaves and the seeds of Jimson weed are used by drug-seeking individuals. It causes hallucinations and euphoria, a heightened sense of well-being. It contains the chemicals atropine, hyoscyamine, and scopolamine. These interfere with acetylcholine, one of the major hormones in the brain and nerves. 15-100 grams of leaf and 15-25 grams of the seeds can be lethal. Children are more sensitive, so the lethal dose is much smaller for them. Jimson weed slows down the stomach emptying and also the activities of the large intestine leading to severe constipation. It can cause glaucoma and also rapid heartbeat. Urinary retention is also common.

Khat

Khat is a drug found in the wild East African shrub called Catha edulis. It contains a central nervous system stimulant, called cathinone. People living on the Arabian Peninsula are chewing the leaves of this plant. It is illegal in Canada and the US. In Ethiopia 30% of adolescent girls and 70% of the adolescent boys chew khat. The effect of khat is similar to the effect of a strong coffee. It has a stimulant effect like the coca plant that is used to make cocaine. It increases respirations, elevates blood pressure and leads to gum disease. This results in tooth decay. Ulcers and constipation occur more often. People on khat become more talkative, elated and euphoric. Some say that they have more imagination and are able to associate things better. From a medical point of view Khat causes constipation, hemorrhoids and impotence. Other symptoms are blurred vision, headaches and dizziness.

Kava kava

Piper methysticum, a plant native to the western Pacific Islands is from which kava kava is made. Kava kava relaxes you, but it has caused liver damage and is even responsible for a few deaths. It has been banned from many European countries and Canada. It is still available in the US. Some people take kava kava for sleeping problems, anxiety and restlessness. There are many more claims that kava kava would be effective for other diseases, but those claims have not been confirmed by research. Kava kava is detoxified in the liver, but in doing so there are profound interactions with other drugs that get detoxified in the liver. This liver toxicity has led to irreversible liver damage requiring a liver transplant. Several people have died because of liver failure.

Magic mushroom

Wild mushrooms, namely magic mushrooms that contain psilocybin are a popular way to get a high. Psilocybin is psychoactive and hallucinogenic. Psilocybin is classified as a Schedule I drug in the US, meaning that it is highly addictive, but has no currently accepted medical use for treating any medical condition. Magic mushrooms cause nausea, yawning, drowsiness, nervousness, panic, paranoia, hallucinations and psychosis.

Toxic side effects of natural substances reported to Poison Control

There were 67,369 calls to poison control centers in the United States between January 1, 2000 and December 31, 2017 regarding natural substances. This is when natural substances turn into poison. There were 41.4% from calls regarding older than 19-year-old individuals. 34.8% of calls to the poison control center was regarding the age group between 13- and 19-year olds. 46.9% of cases were due to marijuana, 21.1% of the calls to the poison control centers were due to anticholinergic plants, 15.6% were due to hallucinogenic mushrooms. In the age group of 3-19 years 47.8% called because of marihuana overdoses. Above the age of 19 it was 53.0% who overdosed on marijuana. In children less than 6 years of age 44.4% of toxic overdoses came from anticholinergic plants.

Deaths reported in the study

The study reported 42 deaths from 2000 to 2017. 8 deaths were due to kratom. 7 deaths among the 42 deaths occurred in people under the age of 18. 5 of the 42 deaths occurred in teenagers aged 13 to 19. Two of the deaths occurred in children under the age of 12. These were due to marijuana.   

Discussion

When reviewing the research of natural substances with the potential to cause addiction, it is important to see things in the right perspective.

Natural substances can be poisonous for you

Many people think that a natural substance, like a leaf from nature, should be trustworthy. But it is the chemicals that people swallow, inhale or chew that matter. Opium also comes from a “harmless” poppy seed. But opium is a powerful and addictive substance. All of the natural substances reviewed above contain potent mind-altering agents. This means that the natural substances are not safe.

Using SPECT scan to measure brain activity

None of the above-mentioned natural substances are harmless. They all attack the brain and interfere with the action of the natural brain hormones in the brain. This may be reversible for a few weeks, but eventually it leads to a chemical burn with permanent damage to the brain. This is when natural substances turn into poison. Dr. Daniel Amen, a psychiatrist has developed a scan that will depict changes in the brain in addicted persons. It is called the Single Photon Emission Computed Tomography or SPECT scan. This nuclear medicine scan measures blood circulation of the brain and brain activity. With prolonged use all of the natural substances show a decreased brain activity pattern on the SPECT scan.

Missing toxicity studies about natural substances

Armed with the SPECT scan as a tool and the knowledge that all of the reviewed “natural” substances have toxic effects on the brain makes one wonder how US citizens could willingly consume these substances for the past 17 years. It was probably a mix of curiosity, peer pressure and the fact that these natural substances were readily available, which made many people try them. There is very little research about toxicity in this field. This is only starting now. To my way of thinking this is another warning sign that people should stop their love-affair with mind-altering natural substances.

When Natural Substances Turn Into Poison

When Natural Substances Turn Into Poison

Conclusion

I have reviewed the thorny issue of natural substances and how they can turn into poisons. All of the substances reviewed affect brain function. This is why people experience hallucinations, elations and euphoria. But this is not real. It is due to the toxic effect of chemicals on the brain.Advertisements promote kava kava as a relaxing substance. But it can damage the liver and as a result several people have died. It is unknown to a large extent how these natural substances interact with other illicit drugs or with alcohol.

It is best to avoid consuming any of these natural substances. Anybody who consumes them is knowingly consuming a poison, and it means that the user will get into health problems…naturally!

Mar
29
2014

Alternative Treatment Of Hyperactivity (ADHD)

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD or ADD, attention deficit disorder) has been in the spotlight on and off over the years. It affects 8% to 10% of school-aged children, and about 2% to 5% of adults who still have this condition.

Typically a parent receives a note from school that they must come to a teacher/parent meeting and it is discussed that the child is disruptive in class, not paying attention, interrupting the teacher inappropriately and forgetting to do their homework. The teacher suggests that this may be a sign of hyperactivity. The school nurse is also of this opinion and they suggest getting a prescription for Ritalin or Adderall (amphetamine type medications), drugs that have been shown in other kids to be fairly effective in treating the symptoms.

Next the child is seen by the doctor who confirms the diagnosis and Ritalin (methylphenidate) is prescribed.

In an attempt to quickly control the situation, the side effects of Ritalin are often not discussed in detail: agitation, insomnia, nervousness, anxiety, nausea, vomiting and loss of appetite, palpitations, dizziness, headaches, an increase in the heart rate, blood pressure elevation, and even psychosis (Ref.1).

It is easy to just write a prescription for Ritalin and hope that all is well. Had the parents heard of all the possible side effects, they may have asked whether there were alternative treatments available.

The causes of hyperactivity (ADHD)

The exact cause of ADHD remains unknown, but there is a clustering of this condition in some families, so there seems to be a clear genetic component (Ref.2). It appears that several genes are involved, namely those associated with serotonin and glutamate transporters, but also those affecting dopamine metabolism. Males are affected with ADHD more often than females (in children 3:1, in adults 1:1).

Alternative Treatment Of Hyperactivity (ADHD)

Alternative Treatment Of Hyperactivity (ADHD)

Some remarks regarding brain development are in order: Dr. Kharrazian describes that the grey matter of the brain develops before the age of 9 and the development of the white matter is completed by the age of 19 (Ref. 3, p.3). In ADHD patients the frontal brain is underdeveloped resulting in an inability to suppress unacceptable behavior, immediate desires and impulses. Prescription drugs may alter the behavior on the surface, but the frontal brain development is still lagging behind. The only thing that can influence this is behavioral/cognitive therapy and extra tutoring while the symptoms are controlled. The window of opportunity is closed by the time the ADHD patient has reached the age of 19. After that a juvenile ADHD turns into a permanent adult ADHD. The cases that had only childhood ADHD and outgrew it were the ones where the frontal lobe abnormalities had corrected themselves before the age of 19.

This review article has noted that there is an association between a Western style diet (sugar and fat rich) and ADHD.

Interestingly both Ref. 1 and 2, which I would categorize as having originated from mainstream conventional medicine circles, deny such an association. But the link also noted that a healthy diet with fiber, folate, and omega-3 fatty acids as well as supplementation with iron and zinc when these minerals are found to be low in the blood, do make a significant difference in ADHD patients towards normalization of their symptoms.

One of the under diagnosed causes of ADHD is gluten sensitivity as Dr. Perlmutter described in his book (Ref. 4, pages 150-158). This can spare the child or teenager the toxic side effects of anxiolytics, antidepressants or antipsychotics that may be inappropriately prescribed by their physicians, and a gluten free diet would allow the brain to recover very quickly in such cases. A food sensitivity history and some simple gluten sensitivity blood screening tests will diagnose this condition or rule it out.

To complicate matters even more, Dr. Amen has mentioned in several books that there are at least 7 different subcategories of ADHD that he has found in ADHD patients when studying thousands of single-photon emission computed tomography brain scans (SPECT brain scans). Dr. Amen mentions that the 7 subcategories of ADHD are the combined type ADD, the primarily inattentive ADD subtype, overfocused ADD, temporal lobe ADD, limbic ADD, ring of fire ADD and trauma induced ADD. Dr. Amen explains that each of these types needs to be treated differently and some of the treatment failures are explained by the fact that the wrong type of ADD was treated (Ref.5).

Treatment of ADHD

In the following I mention 5 steps that are useful for treating ADHD patients.

  1. A first step toward normalization of the metabolic changes in the brain metabolism of the affected child or adult is to adopt a diet that has been linked with low risk for ADHD: avoid food additives, cut out refined sugar, avoid known food allergies like gluten sensitivity and others. You may need to test the patient for food allergies using an elimination diet. Add a good amount of molecularly distilled omega-3 fatty acids (the pure form of omega-3 without mercury, lead or PCBs) as this has shown beneficial effects in ADHD patients.
  2. Involve a behavioral psychologist for behavioral/cognitive therapy treatments. This is particularly effective in the 9 to 19 year old category where the frontal region of the brain is still developing.
  3. Work together with the schoolteacher and get supplemental teaching in areas of academic weakness to reduce the frustrations in the classroom setting.
  4. In adolescent girls who just started their period, a relative lack of progesterone (estrogen dominance) may be a contributory factor. A small dose (20mg to 30 mg) of bioidentical progesterone from day 6 to 16 of the menstrual cycle may help significantly in alleviating the symptoms of ADHD. You may need to consult a naturopathic doctor or anti-aging physician to get a prescription for that.
  5. If all of this helps only marginally, then a smaller amount of Ritalin may be helpful; however, blood tests should be drawn from time to time to monitor for drug toxicity as the rate of absorption and elimination of the drug varies significantly from patient to patient.

It is interesting that studies have shown that a combination of Ritalin or Adderall with alternative treatment methods had a better outcome than either method alone.

Conclusion

It is important to think about the various possible causes of ADHD and not just get caught up in the knee-jerk reflex of treating ADHD with Ritalin (note that this was only step 5 above, if all the other things failed). In co-operation with the school system and using alternative ways at home first (change of diet, possible addition of low dose bioidentical progesterone cream in girls) and additional tutoring in weak school subjects the need for Ritalin may be avoided. If all else fails, the conservative approach is still available, but I suggest that drug monitoring (blood levels that should be done from time to time to avoid toxicity) is important.

More information about ADHD: http://nethealthbook.com/mental-illness-mental-disorders/developmental-disorders/attention-deficithyperactivity-disorder/

References

1. Ferri: Ferri’s Clinical Advisor 2014, 1st ed., © 2013 Mosby.

2. Jacobson: Psychiatric Secrets, 2nd ed., © 2001 Hanley and Belfus

3. Dr. Datis Kharrazian: “Why Isn’t My Brain Working?” © 2013, Elephant Press, Carlsbad, CA 92011

4. David Perlmutter, MD: “Grain Brain. The Surprising Truth About Wheat, Carbs, And Sugar-Your Brain’s Silent Killers.” Little, Brown and Company, New York, 2013.

5. Daniel G. Amen: “Use Your Brain To Change Your Age” © 2012, Harmony Books, An imprint of Crown Publishing.

Last edited Nov. 7, 2014

Incoming search terms:

Dec
29
2012

Avoid Mistakes by Looking at the Brain Carefully

Introduction

In mid December 2012 I attended a conference, which taught me to avoid mistakes by looking at the brain carefully. Doing this avoids missed diagnoses and treatment failures. In midf December 2012 I attended a medical conference in Las Vegas. The American Academy for Anti Aging Medicine organizes this annual event and provides fascinating topics. It gives information about the newest diagnostic methods and presents treatment options that reach beyond the borders of conventional medicine. One morning lecture, which took place on December 14, 2012 was given by Dr. Daniel Amen. It was an unforgettable session for the large audience, which filled the main auditorium. Dr. Amen is a psychiatrist, and he explained in detail the importance of a correct diagnosis for psychiatric problems. One diagnostic tool is the SPECT scan.

SPECT scan as a tool for psychiatric patients

It is not just some sophisticated scanning method that shows interesting images of the brain. But it provides detailed information, which part of the brain has an abnormality. As a result, a trained specialist will be able to classify, which treatment option would yield the best result to help the patient who may have a form of depression or other psychiatric disorder. A pill such as Prozac is not the miracle cure for all forms of depression! Detailed scan information prevents treatment failures. This can make a big difference in a patient’s life as he/she can lead a healthy and productive life.  However, contrast this to a patient who did not receive help, is in an institution, hurt others, killed in a rage or took his own life.

Look At The Brain To Avoid Missed Diagnoses and Treatment Failures

Avoid Mistakes by Looking at the Brain Carefully

Application of SPECT scans

The SPECT scan depicted here is from a patient who suffered from Lyme disease, but his treating physicians at first did not believe him. It was only after the abnormal SPECT scan on the left that further more sophisticated tests did prove Lyme disease was present and extensive antibiotic treatment cured the lad (normal SPECT scan on the right).

A case of a “conduct disorder”

Mental problems present in frightening ways, as the lecturer explained in the case of a young boy with behavioral changes that were terrifying to his family. Previously an easy-going lad, he turned into a challenge for his family and his teachers. He bounced from specialist to specialist. They diagnosed him with various conditions. The specialists stated that he was manipulative and attention-seeking. They also assumed that he was hyperactive and had a learning disability. The term conduct disorder also came up for discussion. But nothing of that helped to improve the situation. The parents felt like they were losing their child that was on a downhill course and on a destructive path.

SPECT scan helped to solve the “conduct disorder”

Finally, a SPECT scan did reveal a previously overlooked condition: the boy had a cyst on the frontal lobe of his brain. It looked like a trench that prevented the frontal brain to communicate with the rest of the brain.  He did need surgery in order to remove the enlarging cyst (pull down to see images), which was not an easy surgical procedure. However, the scan result led to the identification of the problem. This patient – in the meantime a young adult – is no longer troubles with psychiatric problems. He holds a job, has good interpersonal relationships and functions like any normal individual of his age group. Overlooked, undiagnosed and not properly treated mental disease robs people of their ability to lead full and productive lives. Patients with mental illness also represent a large number of the prison population.

Distorted mind of shooters

The lecturer briefly stopped and mentioned that we may have heard of the tragic and unfathomable events in a Connecticut school. A 20-year old shooter killed 20 (we all know this now as the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Connecticut). A somber silence settled over the audience. As most of them had been attending conference lectures all morning, they had not heard about the school shooting and would see the shocking details on the news channels only later that day. For a whole nation December 14, 2012 will be etched into memory as a day of horror, of evil, lives destroyed and hearts broken.

Importance of detecting  and treating mental disorder early

For those who attended this lecture they will be reminded permanently that mental disorders need effective diagnoses and persistent treatment. Mental illness was hiding  behind closed doors in the past. It  was a source of embarrassment and shame, and denial was common in order to keep a pleasant facade. The consequences can be a source of terrible suffering.  This starts with the patient and his family. But as seen a few days earlier it reaches into the community and beyond.

More information on mental illness: http://nethealthbook.com/mental-illness-mental-disorders/