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3 Santa Paula Teens' Illness Tied to Weed

Authorities believe the trio drank tea made with jimson, which can cause hallucinations.

August 14, 2003|Andy Olsen | Times Staff Writer

Three Santa Paula teenagers were hospitalized after they apparently drank tea brewed from a flower called jimson weed, a toxic plant known to cause hallucinations, police said Wednesday.

Santa Paula police responded to a residence in the 1200 block of Ventura Street about 10:30 p.m. Tuesday after relatives of an 18-year-old man reported that he was hallucinating and unresponsive. An ambulance took him to Santa Paula Memorial Hospital after he fell into a seizure, Police Chief Bob Gonzales said. Hospital officials said he remained in the intensive care unit.

A neighbor told officers that two teenagers at her house, an 18-year-old woman and a 16-year-old boy, were showing similar symptoms. The woman told police she and the others had been drinking tea made from flowers she had picked near the Santa Paula Cemetery.

Both were taken to local hospitals. The boy remained in intensive care at Ventura County Medical Center. The woman was treated at Santa Paula Memorial and released, hospital officials said.

Police speculated that the plant was either jimson weed -- also called stinkweed or locoweed -- or dangling trumpet, plants native to Southern California that are known to produce dizziness, disorientation, hallucinations and other symptoms.

Gonzales said this was the first reported incident in Santa Paula of the flower's use as a drug. He believes increased public attention given to common hallucinogenic plants has made them more popular among teens. "I was watching television last week.... They had a news clip of some kids in L.A. who were doing this and I thought, 'This is stupid. There are going to be kids all over doing this,' " he said. "And now here we are, with people doing it here."

Gonzales said city workers were removing the suspect trees and bushes from around the cemetery and nearby properties. Police are investigating whether to file criminal charges against any of the victims.

Jimson weed is a poisonous plant that, in some cases, can cause coma, seizures and death.

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