Don't worry - I'm not planning on snorting Vodka or sniffing a sock sprayed with Lysol (though, apparently, some people do). Two events in the past week have led me to this research.
A few days ago, I was hanging out with a friend of mine at Peet's Coffee when her cell phone rang (you can understand why I refrain from using names in this article, can't you?). She glanced at her caller ID.
"Oh." Her eyebrows scrunched quizzically. "It's ____. I haven't talked to him for weeks." She answered and, after a short, stumbling conversation, hung up.
"What did he want?" I asked.
She had an ambivalent expression on her face, as if she were stuck between wanting to laugh and wanting to figure out what the hell just happened. "Well," she finally began. "He's calling me because he's high."
"High off nutmeg."
Nutmeg. Nutmeg? My eyebrows introduced themselves to my hairline.
The very next day, I went shopping at Target with another friend. I needed to get toothpaste. As we passed the aisle, he groaned and turned away.
"What? Does toothpaste scare you?" I asked jokingly.
He pointed to the mouthwash. "I got ridiculously drunk off Scope once. Now, I can't be near that stuff."
Nutmeg and mouthwash. I used to think they were innocent items. I guess the mouthwash, since it contains alcohol, doesn't surprise me as much as nutmeg does. So I went online and did some research. Admittedly, the Internet isn't the most rock-solid, reliable source for information, but it does definitely have a wealth of strange news. When people find new ways to get high, guess how they communicate it to each other?
Anyway, an Internet search yielded the following information: Nutmeg contains myristicin, an organic compound with hallucinogenic effects if taken in large doses. According to an article titled "Nutmeg High: The Psychoactive Properties of a Common Household Spice" published by the Associated Content, the nasty side-effects of a "nutmeg high" is what deter most people from using it a second time. The bitterness of the spice causes gagging and nausea. Users experience dry mouth, panic attacks and an inability to focus. (Of course, since my research is somewhat limited, especially when it comes to the technical reasons why nutmeg has hallucinogenic effects, I suggest you do some research of your own and perhaps ask your friendly neighborhood chemist.)
Because I found nutmeg and mouthwash such strange ways to get high, I knew there must be more. I primarily looked for Internet forums, where teenagers usually congregate and share information on a topic.
Here are the more common ways to get high with legal drugs, which parents should take note of: using large doses of cough syrup that contains dextromethorophan, called "robotripping"; using salvia divinorum; a variety of over-the-counter drugs; "huffing" or inhaling substances via a plastic bag over the head; and, uh, drinking mouthwash.
Here are some of the more surprising ways people have tried to achieve a high: drinking vanilla extract; smoking toads (which The Simpsons parodied); snorting vodka (this sounds so, so painful); inhaling Lysol; and, yes, ingesting nutmeg.
Parents who are reading this don't need to regard their child with suspicion if he or she is caught holding a Lysol bottle or rummaging through the herb rack. However, it's always wise to be aware of what's out there. In order to get high, teenagers have done some very stupid things in the past. I remember watching an Oprah episode about how people my age accidentally kill themselves by seeking a high through strangulation. But even for the dumb but seemingly harmless ways to get high (i.e., nutmeg), it's good to remember that, used at high doses, almost anything is dangerous.
And for the teens who are reading this: Please use some common sense. If you want to get drunk, don't grab that bottle of Listerine. Wait until you're 21.
Maria Shen, reporting on Generation Y, is a senior at Monte Vista High School. She founded Contra Costa County's Young Bohemians creative writing club and is editor of Voicebox, a literary magazine. E-mail her at email@example.com.