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White Nerds on Nutmeg

Crack for boarding-school nerds (Palokha Tetiana/Shutterstock

Did you know you can get high on nutmeg? For true. Says The New York Times:

 In the 1965 book, “The Autobiography of Malcolm X,” the activist describes purchasing it from inmates in a South Carolina prison, concealed in matchboxes, and stirring it into water. “A penny matchbox full of nutmeg had the kick of three or four reefers,” he wrote.

Toxicologists say that description is somewhat misleading, an overly romantic account of nutmeg’s generally unpleasant effects. It takes a fair amount of nutmeg — two tablespoons or more — before people start exhibiting symptoms. These can include an out-of-body sensation, but the most common are intense nausea, dizziness, extreme dry mouth, and a lingering slowdown of normal brain function. Dr. Gussow said nutmeg experimenters have compared it to a two-day hangover.

“People have told me that it feels like you are encased in mud,” said Dr. Edward Boyer, professor of emergency medicine and chief of the division of medical toxicology at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. “You’re not exactly comatose, but you feel really sluggish. And your remembrance of events during this time period is incomplete at best.”

The main chemical culprit in nutmeg is called myristicin which forms naturally in the seeds (and in other plants, occurring in trace amounts in carrots). Myristicin belongs to a family of compounds with psychoactive potential that occasionally are used to make much stronger psychotropic drugs. It has been included in recipes for MMDA. And it is chemically related to another compound, safrole, also found in nutmeg, which is sometimes used in the synthesis of the street drug Ecstasy.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that the natural compound acts like these synthetic drugs. “But a junior chemist might think that you are going to end up with a similar effect,” Dr. Boyer said. And he suspects that is one reason many of the poisoning cases seen in the United States involve teenage home experiments.

Teenage Home Experiment here. Let’s say you are a 17-year-old boy living in a residential high school in Natchitoches, Louisiana, and you and your friends are bored out of your minds. And let’s say that one of your friends has a copy of The Anarchist Cookbook, which has a few paragraphs in it about how you can get high on nutmeg. You and your buddy might be the kind of people who say, “Dude, you can buy that stuff at the supermarket.” And you might even be the kind of people who will ride their bikes through the rain to the Brookshire’s store after dinner, buy a box of McCormick’s ground nutmeg, and take it back to the dorm to eat.

If you’re me, you mix it with Equal to make it slightly more palatable. It tastes like spicy dirt. We must have eaten two or three teaspoons each, then sat around waiting to get high.

And waiting.

And waiting.

Finally we went to bed. It was a school night, after all.

Next morning my nutmeg buddy’s roommate shook me awake, telling me that the guy was really sick. I padded down the hall and found him curled up in his bed, miserable.

“I feel horrible,” he moaned.

“I don’t feel a thing,” I said. Then I fainted.

When I tried to stand up, I fainted again.

We both had to try to get ourselves together enough to go down to the dorm lobby for the school nurse to examine. I looked at myself in the bathroom mirror. My eyes were as glassy as they could possibly be. We walked through mud (that’s exactly what it felt like) down four flights of stairs, holding on to the railing as if we were on the deck of a ship in a storm.

“It’s a virus,” said the school nurse, and sent us to our rooms for the day.

I went to bed. When I woke up, it was midnight, and all the guys who had been in the room watching us eat the stuff were standing around waiting for me to come to. I had been asleep for 13 or 14 hours. I felt massively hung over. Not one bit of this experience was the least bit fun. We found out later that we had overdosed. As if we didn’t know.

The only lingering effects, though, were that for the next three days, every time I went to the bathroom, I basically peed Old Spice.

I could have been the Syd Barrett of the gifties! You kids be careful out there, helping your moms make those Thanksgiving pumpkin pies. Heh.

(Here’s the reference for the subject line, by the way.)

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. A veteran of three decades of magazine and newspaper journalism, he has also written three New York Times bestsellers—Live Not By Lies, The Benedict Option, and The Little Way of Ruthie Lemingas well as Crunchy Cons and How Dante Can Save Your Life. Dreher lives in Baton Rouge, La.

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