THE POISON GARDEN website      Arum maculatum berries on a Cannabis leaf 


This free script provided by JavaScript Kit

Pontifications on Poison

Being some ramblings on events associated with poisonous plants.

Sunday 16th March 2014

I told you so!

I’m not intending this to be a piece of self-congratulatory narcissism but, knowing that there is a danger of it being read like that even if not written that way, I thought I’d get it out in the open. Two topics have featured in recent days that I have covered before so I wanted to compare what has been said recently with what I’ve said on these subjects. I’ll deal with one here and leave the other for the next time.

In my talks, I introduce the topic of plants capable of having psychoactive effects by showing pictures of Camellia sinensis, tea, because tea contains caffeine and caffeine is a stimulant capable of producing dependence in regular usage. Many people recognise my description of the sort of symptoms that occur if there is a sudden change in the amount of tea or coffee being drunk. Though coffee is more generally thought of as the main source of caffeine, I refer to tea so that, in addition to the main point that the term 'addict' is unhelpful as it could be applied to most of the population, I can make the point that psychoactive effects are not limited to a few well-demonised plants.

In the past week or so, the question of caffeine and its stimulant properties seems to have come into focus for a number of people. Since the growth in the sales of ‘energy’ drinks and a few deaths that have been associated with them, there has been more focus on caffeine but it is the pre-publication publicity for a book called ‘Caffeinated’ that has successfully brought the issue into wider interest. The author, Murray Carpenter, wrote this long piece for the Guardian (though there is no mention of the book and no attempt to promote sales directly, a welcome rarity).

What I found interesting was that you can put almost any other drug name in wherever the word caffeine appears. Thus, when Carpenter talks about the difficulty of getting consistent dose and the problems that can arise when someone gets a dose that is much stronger than normal or the way that inquests have put the blame on caffeine when there were other health issues involved or the moves to create unenforceable bans, etcetera he could just as easily be talking about cannabis or cocaine or the latest NPS.

Just at the moment, a key comparison is with Catha edulis, khat. The problems for extreme high users of khat sound very like those who consume excessive amounts of caffeine and the lack of problems for the overwhelming majority of users of both substances illustrates that Theresa May's decision to schedule khat as Class 'C' is entirely without merit.

Further confirmation that society’s approach to psychoactive substances is not based on science comes more strongly in an article explaining how extreme athletes taking part in the Ironman World Championship make use of caffeine, openly and within the rules, to provide the stimulus needed to complete the event.

When some controlling bodies are tying themselves in knots trying to work out what to do about cannabis, marijuana, if a competitor has consumed it within the state laws now taking effect, it seems remarkable that a stimulant openly taken in order to chemically induce improved performance causes no concern for other such organisations.

The other ‘I told you so’ comes from taking an American report and applying its findings to the UK. But I’ll deal with that separately because it is a big topic with, for me, implications for a post-reform world.  



A great piece with some very interesting links. As you say, you told us so, but will you tell Peter Hitchens please. He remains convinced caffeine is not psychoactive despite being (or perhaps because he is) a daily user.

The Poison Garden

Thanks. I've long sinced despaired of Peter Hitchens ever changing his opinions in the light of evidence. But, as I concluded in this piece, intransigence in the opposition makes their position more obviously wrong.

Submit a Comment

You can send comments via the contact page but please be sure to say what blog entry you are commenting on.

Follow @thepoisongarden on Twitter

Full Entries


Saturday 20th August 2016 Sunday 6th March 2016 Wednesday 3rd February 2016


Saturday 28th November 2015 Friday 27th November 2015 Monday 17th August 2015 Wednesday 15th July 2015 Friday 26th June 2015 Thursday 25th June 2015 Thursday 30th April 2015 Wednesday 29th April 2015 Wednesday 11th March 2015 Tuesday 3rd March 2015 Saturday 28th February 2015 Sunday 22nd February 2015

November 2014


Monday 24th November 2014 Saturday 8th November 2014

October 2014

September 2014

Wednesday 24th September 2014 Monday 1st September 2014

August 2014

Tuesday 26th August 2014 Saturday 16th August 2014 Tuesday 5th August 2014 Friday 1st August 2014

July 2014

Sunday 27th July 2014 Wednesday 23rd July 2014 Sunday 13th July 2014 Sunday 6th July 2014 Tuesday 1st July 2014

June 2014

Wednesday 25th June 2014 Tuesday 24th June 2014 Sunday 22nd June 2014 Monday 9th June 2014 Wednesday 4th June 2014

May 2014

Monday 26th May 2014 Sunday 18th May 2014 Wednesday 14th May 2014

April 2014

Sunday 13th April 2014 Saturday 5th April 2014 Thursday 3rd April 2014 Tuesday 1st April 2014

March 2014

Monday 31st March 2014 Tuesday 25th March 2014 Friday 21st March 2014 Monday 17th March 2014 Sunday 16th March 2014 Tuesday 11th March 2014 Thursday 6th March 2014 Wednesday 5th March 2014 Saturday 1st March 2014

February 2014

Thursday 27th February 2014 Monday 24th February 2014 Wednesday 19th February 2014 Monday 17th February 2014 Thursday 13th February 2014 Monday 4th February 2014 Monday 3rd February 2014 Saturday 1st February 2014

January 2014

Thursday 28th January 2014 Thursday 23rd January 2014 Friday 17th January 2014 Wednesday 15th January 2014 Monday 13th January 2014 Thursday 9th January 2014 Tuesday 7th January 2014 Wednesday 1st January 2014

December 2013

Monday 23rd December 2013 Friday 20th December 2013 Tuesday 17th December 2013 Friday 14th December 2013 Thursday 12th December 2013 Sunday 8th December 2013 Wednesday 4th December 2013 Sunday 1st December 2013

November 2013

Friday 29th November 2013 Wednesday 27th November 2013 Tuesday 26th November 2013 Friday 22nd November 2013 Monday 18th November 2013 Friday 15th November 2013 Thursday 14th November 2013 Sunday 10th November 2013 Thursday 7th November 2013 Wednesday 6th November 2013 Friday 1st November 2013

October 2013

Thursday 31st October 2013 Sunday 27th October 2013 Wednesday 23rd October 2013 Monday 21st October 2013 Friday 18th October 2013 Friday 11th October 2013 Wednesday 9th October 2013 Tuesday 8th October 2013 Monday 7th October 2013 Tuesday 1st October 2013

September 2013

Monday 30th September 2013 Saturday 28th September 2013 Friday 27th September 2013 Monday 23rd September 2013 Sunday 15th September 2013 Monday 9th September 2013 Sunday 8th September 2013 Tuesday 3rd September 2013 Sunday 1st September 2013

August 2013

Tuesday 27th August 2013 Sunday 25th August 2013 Monday 19th August 2013 Friday 16th August 2013 Tuesday 13th August 2013 Friday 9th August 2013 Friday 2nd August 2013 Thursday 1st August 2013

July 2013

Saturday 27th July 2013 Sunday 21st July 2013 Wednesday 17th July 2013 Monday 15th July 2013 Saturday 13th July 2013 Friday 12th July 2013 Thursday 11th July 2013 Wednesday 10th July 2013 Tuesday 9th July 2013 Saturday 6th July 2013

June 2013

Friday 28th June 2013 Tuesday 25th June 2013 Friday 21st June 2013 Thursday 20th June 2013 Wednesday 19th June 2013 Saturday 15th June 2013 Sunday 9th June 2013 Saturday 8th June 2013 Saturday 1st June 2013

May 2013April 2013 March 2013 February 2013 January 2013 December 2012 November 2012 October 2012 September 2012 August 2012 July 2012 blog June 2012 blog May 2012 blog April 2012 blog March 2012 blog February 2012 blog January 2012 blog December 2011 blog November 2011 blog October 2011 blog September 2011 blog August 2011 blog July 2011 blog June 2011 blog


The POISON GARDEN website is not connected with Alnwick Garden Enterprises Ltd and/or The Alnwick Garden Trust.