People do recreational drugs for a lot of reasons: addiction, boredom, energy, depression, relaxation. But there are just some drugs that no person would ever want to do, drugs that are outright unpleasant and dangerous.
Datura is one of those drugs. It is also the name of Sony's latest Playstation Move title.
What Datura Is
Datura is a genus of flowering weeds in the Solanaceae family of plants. That's the same family that includes tobacco, potatoes and deadly nightshade. Datura contains Scopolamine, Hyoscyamine and Atropine, powerful chemicals that at low, controlled doses have medical uses for symptoms such as nausea, but which have lethal and psychoactive effects at higher levels.
Why It's A Nasty Drug
Datura is in a classification of drugs known as "Deleriants". Unlike "classical" hallucinogens like LSD or Magic Mushrooms or dissociatives such as PCP and Ketamine, Datura can bring about a confused fugue state, a waking dream where you are unaware that you're actually hallucinating. Users report smoking cigarettes that aren't actually there, having conversations with parties not present, stripping naked and extreme fear reactions.
The whole experience is apparently not at all pleasant and frequently ends with the users either being arrested, hospitalised or both. One need only go to the "Experience Vaults" of Erowid.org, a popular destination for drug culture and information, to see the reactions:
"Stay the f**k away from it. And if you do decide to try it, even after reading this report, and or countless other train wreck experiences.. Then you are as f**king dumb as I am."
-Erowid.org user "Mushroomagic"
"DON'T PLAY GAMES WITH DATURA BECAUSE IT WILL F**K YOU! AND F**K YOU! AND F**K YOU! AND JUST WHEN YOU THINK ITS ALL OVER, THAT'S WHEN THE REAL F**KING STARTS!"
-Erowid.org user "Daydreamer"
Aside from making the user delirious, the chemicals in Datura can also induce auditory hallucinations, cause amnesia, induce pupil dilation (causing functional blindness for a few days), and, at large doses, can cause heart attacks.
Datura has a long history of ritualistic use. In his bestselling book The Serpent and the Rainbow, anthropologist Wade Davis claimed that the main ingredients in the long-secret Haitian zombie potion were actually a combination of Datura stramonium and Tetrodotoxin, a poison found in puffer-fish that brings about a death-like state. What's more, Datura and it's cousins Mandrake, Henbane and Nightshade were all traditional ingredients in medieval witches brews.
It is also worth noting that Datura is in no way illegal to possess. You might have seen it growing in your grandmother's garden. It's completely legal to grow, cultivate and consume on a federal level.
The reasons why only the foolish do should be self-evident.
A Dark Drug's Video Game Connection
In our play-through of an early build of the PlayStation 3 game Datura, we began with the main character in the back of an ambulance, flat-lining. Blearily, you pull the EKG leads off of your chest. The doctor applies a defibrillator to you, and you black out. The game then quotes a famous passage from the opening passage of Dante's Inferno:
In the middle of our life's walk,
I found myself in a dark woods,
for the straight road was lost.
Like Dante, you wander through the woods. You touch Birch trees to gain their knowledge. The forest floor is littered with Datura flowers. Eventually you pass through a gate and see a pig, and the game lets you throw potatoes at him from a nearby barrel. He runs away from you, disappearing down a Briar Patch. You follow.
The game cuts to you driving a car through the woods in the dead of night. You hit a pig and the car veers off course. Another car rams into you. You wake up in the woods again.
Michal Staniszewski, the director of the game at Plastic Studios, has said that he wanted to "Pose a question to the player — what happens when you die?" and that the game is "more for you to interpret. It's more personal".
Given that Datura intoxication can lead to hospitalizations, uncontrolled and reckless behaviour, visions inseparable from reality, amnesia and cardiac failure, perhaps Datura (the game) is not being symbolic at all with its title. Perhaps Datura is actually a video game about a drug-addled trip gone horribly, horribly wrong.
Of course, that's just my interpretation. Given what we know about the game — that it is a game about death and dying — this first-hand account of Datura intoxication does seem oddly appropriate:
"I was dead. This was hell. There were no demons, no hellfire or brimstone, just a deep, complete feeling of darkness and hopelessness. This was the never-ending void. Not at all how I had imagined it, but worse than I thought that it could have been."
-Erowid user "Tek22", on Datura.