The Magic Scorpion
The magic scorpion, Hottentotta opius, is closely related to the Indian red scorpion, Hottentotta tamulus, considered to be the worlds most toxic scorpion. However, although its poison is indeed strong, the magic scorpion has an entirely different class of toxins than tamalus.
Indeed, the magic scorpion's poison is much closer in its molecular composition to an opiate cocktail, rather than the usual toxic proteins found in other scorpions. This is probably due to the fact that the magic scorpion is often found near poppy plants, Papaver somniferum. Like all scorpions, the magic scorpion stores waste and other toxic by-products of its metabolism in its stinger. Given its omnivorous nature, it is believed that repeated ingestion of insects feeding on the poppy plants is the cause of the high opiate concentration in its venom.
Despite the fact that scorpions are feared the world over for their toxicity, the magic scorpion has always enjoyed a high standing in Indian culture, especially before the arrival of synthesized pain-killers. Used in religious ceremonies as well as primitive medicine, it has been considered as a gift from the goods in Hindu culture, allowing the shamans to attain nirvana, and relieving the suffering of the people. The rarity of the animal, which has been recently classified as a red-list endangered species, has made sure that abuse of its venom is kept to a minimum.
Having been mostly forgotten after the arrival of synthetic drugs, except in very traditional communities, the magic scorpion has recently known a revival of its fame. Western tourists see it as a way to experience the “authentic” Indian meditation, and black trade of the animals has flourished in recent years. It is those same tourists who have coined its vernacular name in the west, in allusion to the hallucinogenic properties of magic mushrooms.
The black market combined with the destruction of their natural habitat, has reduced the numbers of magic scorpions found in the wild to an alarming level. The animals experienced a brief rest on the road to extinction when the opium trade was in full swing, and poppy fields were common in numerous parts of the world. However, the appearance of the seemingly dangerous animals pushed poppy farmers to use a large amount of pesticides, which caused not only the animals to disappear, but which also render the end product, opium, much more toxic that it would otherwise be.
Today, it seems the last chance for the survival of the species lies with western tourists, some of which have recently begun attempts to farm the animal. Legislation on the sale and use of magic scorpions is unclear as of yet, and it remains to be seen whether or not the animals will become the next “legal high”.