TAMPA, FL – While some addicts continue to look for drugs in dark alleys and behind rotten pubs, others are finding their fix in kitchen pantries and spice aisles at the grocery store.
Nutmeg, the popular spice used in small quantities in eggnogs, apple pies and hot beverages, is a popular new household high. When consumed in high quantities, nutmeg is considered a hallucinogen and gives what consumers are calling, a “nutmeg high”.
Nutmeg contains myristicin, an aromatic herb which has psychoactive properties. It also contains safrole, a carcinogen that damages the liver. If overused, nutmeg causes fever, liver damage, hallucinations, delusion and rare, severe effects such as seizures and cardiac arrest.
Sergeant Tom Brobowski, former University of South Florida drug recognition expert, says, “I remember a case where I got three phone calls from three different hospitals concerning students who shared nutmeg from the same bag. The students suffered increased heart rate and difficulty breathing and thought they were having a heart attack. Turns out they all had anxiety attacks. It just shows the gravity of what you think may tame you down, but does the exact opposite.”
This, however, is not the first time addicts have raided through pantries to fulfill their nutmeg high. The earliest records of nutmeg as a drug were in the 1940s when Charleston State prisoners began using it because of its legality.
The egg-shaped tree seed was prized in medieval Europe due to its low supply and high demand. However, as more countries began planting and exporting nutmeg, its value declined.
Wilton Belidor, a USF student who experimented with the spice, says, “I heard about it on some news channel and thought it was ridiculous. But a couple months ago I went to a party and tried it. But I will never do it again, I felt paralyzed the morning after.”
The Vault of Erowid, an educational website about drugs, informs many users about unlikely substances that can be used to attain a high. Certain legal substances mentioned on the site could be found at home improvement stores or grocery stores.
The website has a section called Experience Vaults where first-time users of bizarre drugs document timelines about their personal effects of spices, ecstasy and synthetic marijuana.
Some users on Erowid.org say nutmeg is “exactly like pot” and others say it is “well worth it.” In October 2010, a male user documented an hour-by-hour diary about his personal experience with nutmeg. This is a section of the diary during his fifteenth hour on the spice:
“I start freezing up, everything turns black, my hearing turns off, and I feel myself drop on the floor and start sort of pushing myself in a circle with my feet with no control.”
According to the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, toxic overdose can be seen with as little as five grams of nutmeg. The high can last up to 72 hours depending on how much one consumes.
YouTuber’s worldwide have experimented and recorded themselves abusing the herb. Some chug it in large quantities while others smoke it through homemade bongs made out of apple cores.
It doesn’t stop with nutmeg, however. Addicts are finding highs in other spices like ginger, cloves and tea. According to The Vault of Erowid, unusual substances like bath salts and even catnip have been consumed. These newfound highs could arguably be just as dangerous as narcotics.
“Sadly, this is something we have to start worrying about more than other narcotics. Because it is legal and easily accessible, I consider it to be worse than marijuana or pot,” says Laura Rusnak, professor at the University of South Florida’s College of Public Health.
G-Spot, a local smoke shop on Fowler Avenue, now sells Spice, a legal alternative to marijuana. Although it has been present since the early 90s, Spice, also known as K2, became popular in 2008. The store is well known for selling herbal ingredients infused with synthetic marijuana. Spice is currently being sold as incense in other stand-alone and online stores.
Employees at G-Spot say they have heard about the nutmeg high. “There was actually a person in here the other day buying Spice and he told me how he had experimented with spices in his cabinet. Funny enough, he mentioned nutmeg,” says Amanda Hajarie.
If used correctly, nutmeg and other spices can add flavor to any dish. However, if spices are abused, they can be extremely hazardous. Since nutmeg is legal, cheap and easily accessible, the dangers of trending household highs continue to threaten people of all ages.