Next time you see someone staring lovingly at a salad, don't be so amazed: Perhaps it's the lettuce that is turning him on. Yes, it's true. Wild lettuce (Lactuca virosa) and most other varieties, including common head lettuce (Sativa capita), contain lactucarium, a bitter alkaloid similar in physical properties to opium. In fact, lactucarium has even been used by physicians as a substitute for opium when that drug was not readily available. Before running for the French dressing, however, read on. A bit of preparatory work will be necessary before lettuce will do its thing.

To extract lettuce opium (lactucarium), liquefy the wild lettuce plant, or the hearts and roots of supermarket lettuce, in an electric juicer.' At least a pint of liquid is needed to produce a useful quantity.

Let the resulting liquid stand in a bowl under heat lamps or hot sunlight until it has evaporated, leaving a brownish-green sticky substance. Scrape this residue from the bowl and put a small piece into an opium pipe. Pointing the pipe downward, so the lactucarium will not go into the stem, heat the bowl over a match or flame until the residue begins to bubble. It will give off a white smoke which should be inhaled and held in the lungs for about thirty seconds.

Real opium produces a sleepy, dreamy, intense, spaced-out high. Lettuce opium, less potent than the real thing, will produce a milder, sedated high.

Addiction is no problem; an enormous amount of this legal drug would have to be ingested over a long period of time to get one hooked: However, large quantities can be toxic.

Several American manufacturers currently market ready-to-use lettuce-opium brands as legal substitutes for hashish and cocaine. These products are reputed to contain resin extracted from South American wild lettuce, somewhat more potent and lower in pesticides than our supermarket variety. Experimenters claim that, aside from looking like the real things, both types can bring on a high. As is the case with homemade lettuce opium, excessive smoking should be avoided.