Though some kids treat nutmeg similar to the “cinnamon challenge” (trying to swallow a single spoonful without the aid of water) most are using it to get high by eating, drinking (mixed with coffee or another beverage), smoking, or snorting it. As with the other challenges in our series, this trend has spread quickly via the Internet with kids posting videos on YouTube or other social media platforms discussing their experience or recommending the “best” way to do it.
An egg-shaped seed of the nutmeg tree, ground down into a spice form, raw nutmeg contains myristicin, a psychoactive substance similar to mescaline that causes hallucinations in high doses. Documentation of nutmeg’s drug-like properties is not new. In the 1960s, the New England Journal of Medicine debated whether nutmeg may have originally been added to eggnog because of it psychopharmacological effects. As a way of getting high, the popularity of nutmeg comes and goes with spikes in the early 1900s as well as the mid 60s. With the blossoming of social media and the popularity of teen dares, nutmeg is on the rise once more.
In 2010, there were 67 documented cases of nutmeg exposure reported by the American Association of Poison Control Centers.
The amount of nutmeg kids are ingesting to get high varies from a tablespoon to half of a container. In cooking, a little nutmeg goes a long way with recipes usually calling for just a quarter teaspoon, so the chances of accidentally ingesting too much are slim.
THE REALITY OF USING NUTMEG TO GET HIGH
Negative effects of nutmeg include nausea, convulsion, diarrhea, vomiting, dehydration, cottonmouth, body pains, intense hangover, racing heart and heart palpitations. In extreme cases it can cause death. Furthermore, because the “high” can take up to six hours to take effect, the danger of overdosing is considerable — the person takes more because they assume they didn’t take enough to feel anything.
The body’s reaction is so bad, in fact, that few who try it go on to repeat the experience. The effects can last for days as one teenage girl on YouTube claims, explaining that after ingesting nutmeg she slept for the better part of three days unable to do much else, and recommending that those interested in trying it set aside an entire weekend.
Other videos show younger kids substituting nutmeg for cinnamon and trying to choke down the coarse, powdery substance without the aid of a liquid. One video even targets kids directly, stating, “Hey kids! Here’s a challenge! Try using nutmeg instead of cinnamon.”
TALK TO YOUR KIDS
When it comes to food dares as well as drugs, the best thing to do is talk with your kids about it. Never assume that they are unaware. In this day and age, information, especially among youth, travels faster than ever. As a parent, be aware of the types of everyday household items in your home that could be used to get high such as markers, glue, products in aerosol containers like whipped cream, computer dusting products, etc.
Look for changes in your kids’ behavior — sudden withdrawal from family, drastic changes in mood, lack of enjoyment in things they usually love. A little knowledge coupled with open communication in the household is your best bet to keep your kids out of harms way. Don’t hesitate, talk to your kids today about the dangers of using nutmeg to get high or as a food challenge.