Junk Explained: Why Are Teens Trying To Get High By Eating Nutmeg?

The Nutmeg Challenge is the newest trend sweeping the internet.

nutmeg challenge high

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Over the last few months we’ve seen teens on TikTok become makeshift doctors through a number questionable challenges.

Back in January, men were trying to taste through their balls, and just last month women were trying to stop their gag reflex by pinching their thumbs. Needless to say, neither challenge worked beyond a placebo effect, but that hasn’t stopped people from trying.

Now, with the world stuck on coronavirus lockdown, people are thinking of even more bonkers ways to pass the time. One-upping 2012’s greatest challenge, people online have decided to switch out cinnamon for nutmeg — but for totally different reasons.

The 2012 viral Cinnamon Challenge was simple: Eat a spoonful of cinnamon in under 60 seconds without any liquids. As the powder was dry, it was near impossible to do and made for some pretty good laughs in the early days of internet challenges.

Today, the Nutmeg Challenge is a little different. Beyond finally learning that ingesting spices dry isn’t actually all that fun to do, people on TikTok are now drinking nutmeg concoctions to get high.

What Is The Nutmeg Challenge And How Did It Start?

The Nutmeg Challenge was actually a hashtag created by TikTok itself but was done in reference to the soccer move, not the spice. The nutmeg is a footwork move that requires you to kick a ball between your opponents legs and catch it on the other side.

But because we can’t have nice things, people quickly hijacked the hashtag to share videos of their “nutmeg highs” instead.

According to the teens, consuming a general mix of two tablespoons of ground nutmeg in water is said to give you a hallucinogenic high like that of LSD. The results for those who have shared their experiences have ranged from seeing walls “melting” and “moving in a wave type of motion” to “a regular high, like [you] just smoked [marijuana].”

However, some reported less severe reactions to the nutmeg, claiming they simply felt “a bit light-headed” but weren’t seeing the visions of elves and gnomes others had seen.

But with so many people allegedly experiencing these hallucinations, it’s worth looking at the history of nutmeg being used as more than just a spice.

The History Of Nutmeg As A Drug

The first reported use of nutmeg to achieve some sort of high dates back to the 1500s, when a pregnant woman ate 10-12 nutmeg nuts resulting in a “nutmeg induced intoxication”. Nutmeg was even said to have been used for medicinal purposes in India, China and the Middle East in 700 B.C.E. Utilised for sedative purposes and as a “mood elevator”, nutmeg has long been used as more than just a spice.

Even Malcom X spoke about nutmeg highs in his 1965 autobiography, The Autobiography of Malcom X. Recounting his time in prison, Malcom X explained that “nutmeg men” would often exchange money or cigarettes for “penny matchboxes full of stolen nutmeg” from kitchen worker inmates.

“I grabbed a box as though it were a pound of heavy drugs,” he wrote. “Stirred into a glass of cold water, a penny matchbox full of nutmeg had the kick of three or four reefers.”

But the abuse of the spice for its inebriant properties has lead to a number of negative experiences since.

In a 2005 case study, an 18-year-old was treated for heart palpitations, nausea, a dry mouth and dizziness after consuming a milkshake with almost 50 grams of nutmeg. While she felt like she was in a “trance state”, she didn’t report any hallucinations.

Similarly, a 2015 medical journal described the experience of a 37-year-old woman who faced similar symptoms after only having consumed two teaspoons of the spice.

Most recently, the Complementary Therapies in Medicine journal reported just last year that a 17-year-old boy was rushed to hospital after snorting a tablespoon of the ground spice. The teenager was said to have been in a trance-like state, vomiting and making involuntary muscle movements.

So, Can Nutmeg Get You High And Is It Safe?

The simple answer is yes it can get you high, but it’s probably not the type of high you want — plus, it’s not all that safe.

According to Sydney GP Brad McKay, myristicin and elemicin — the active ingredients in nutmeg — have a stimulating effect on receptors in the brain.

Healthline reports that myristicin can also affect the central nervous system by “enhancing the neurotransmitter norepinephrine”, which leads to side effects like hallucinations.

However, along with possible visions, an over-consumption of myristicin can lead to more serious complications like organ failure or even death when combined with other drugs.

“Nutmeg might be able to get you high, but it’s not a nice high,” Dr Brad McKay told Junkee. “Rather than report a state of euphoria, most people intoxicated with nutmeg report feeling a heightened state of anxiety, agitation, or a sensation of impending doom.”

As with most things in small doses, nutmeg is a totally safe spice to use in cooking. So feel free to bake those gingerbread men or enjoy that pumpkin spice latte — after all, most recipes call for less than a teaspoon. Just be aware that consuming two tablespoons of the spice is enough to cause symptoms of toxicity, Healthline reports.

“Sprinkling a little bit of nutmeg on your food could brighten your day, but drinking a high dose could cause organ failure and even death,” Dr McKay continues. “Plenty of people have ended up in hospital with terrible anxiety and have needed observation for a day or two.”

And considering the massive strain on medical staff during this coronavirus pandemic, the hospital is the last place you want to end up because you wanted a quick, cheap high.