22 December 2010

Addiction: Teens Getting High on Kitchen Holiday Spices

The latest trend in cheap highs for teens - your kitchen spice rack.

From Denny: The latest idiot "get high" trend among kids is to rummage through the family kitchen spice rack. So, what spices can get you high you ask? As much as I know about forgotten foods like spices and herbs even I didn't ever consider them in this light.

Late night comic Conan O'Brien joked about this disturbing trend among teens: "According to health officials, teenagers have started smoking nutmeg to get high. Is this recession bad or what?"


Smoking, snorting or ingesting large amounts of nutmeg can give you some serious side effects:

* increased heart rate
* blurred vision
* convulsions
* feels like a bad case of the flu
* delirium
* hallucinations
* vomiting
* irregular heart rhythms
* severe headache
* drowsiness
* coma

The frightening thing is that it takes as long as four to five hours before a user feels the mind-altering effects of nutmeg. Nutmeg is very slow-acting. So, what do they usually do? Yes, you guessed it; after 15 to 20 minutes they decide to ingest even more nutmeg to the point of toxic levels, chasing after that euphoria.

Curious teens keen to experiment are smoking and eating very large amounts of nutmeg in particular. They are seeking that quick high. What they get is a quick trip to the hospital emergency room because of violent convulsions.  All it takes is just one tablespoon of nutmeg swirled into a drink to be toxic.

Most cooks use spices sparingly and certainly never considered them as potential drugs to get high. According to Deborah Blum, author of “The Poisoner’s Handbook,” says some spices can definitely be both naughty and nice during this holiday season.

Says Blum: “We tend to think of herbs and spices as wonderfully healthy because they’re natural plant products. But natural doesn’t mean safe and many plants contain toxic compounds, which they evolved to fend off grazing animals and predatory insects. Could you kill someone with a well-spiced holiday cookie? Not likely, you’d have to shovel in so much spice that this would be one inedible treat. But are holiday spices simply benign little flavoring agents? Not entirely.”

She says nutmeg is one of those spices that can bite back when misused.

“Nutmeg has popped into the news recently because teenagers have tried smoking it for its hallucinogenic effects,” she says. “The problem is that these are pretty marginal effects and too much of the compound can make you pretty sick and dizzy. But if you poke around in the spice cabinet, you’ll run across other risky compounds.”

Cinnamon oil

Another spice that can be toxic and is used by teens to get high? Cinnamon. At our house we use cinnamon on our morning oatmeal or in cinnamon-sugar or in baked goods.

Cinnamon oil is what teens are ingesting since the 1990's. The symptoms of cinnamon abused from inhaling or ingesting are:

* nausea
* abdominal pain
* welts on the skin or other irritation
* eye irritation (they got it into their eyes)
* rapid heart beat
* light headedness
* facial flushing
* shortness of breath

Clove oil

Another kitchen cooking spice also the favorite of teens who want to get high? Cloves. Actually, it's clove oil. Some have injected it. What symptoms that caused were acute respiratory distress and non-cardiogenic pulmonary edema which is fluid building up in the lungs so much so you can't breathe. Doctors were able to save this crazy kid who might as well have been labeled a walking Christmas clove ornament.


Did you know that too much vanilla can mess you up too? Twelve ounces of synthetic vanilla extract also contains the dangerous 35 percent ethanol. Ethanol does not react well with the human nervous system when taken in large amounts and can depress it as well as your breathing.

Ingesting too much vanilla bad symptoms are:

* depress the central nervous system
* depress the respiratory system
* flushed skin
* gastrointestinal distress
* hypothermia
* hypotension

Decorative Sprinkles

You have got to be kidding me?! Now it's those cute sugary sprinkles that have issues. Those beautiful Martha Stewart advocated silver dragees, silver balls that look like silver BBs, have a lawsuit against them alleging they are toxic. Bakers have used them for decades in everything from shortbread cookies to gingerbread houses.

Could you poison yourself with too much silver like in these silver dragees?

“I wouldn’t worry,” says Blum. “Too much silver could turn you a lovely silver blue but you’d have to be swallowing those little silver balls by the bucket load. With any of these, you’d have to work very hard at making yourself or anyone sick.”

It doesn't help there are video tutorials on YouTube to encourage this stupid abuse of kitchen spices. If you are a parent, keep tabs on just how much nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves and vanilla are still in the pantry.

*** Cinnamon photo by Shariff Che'Lah @ featurepics.com

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