This time of the year, most of us look forward to spending time with family and friends enjoying good company, reminiscing and savoring all of the wonderful foods that go along with the holiday season. There's nothing better than the smell of homemade fresh baked pies, cookies and candies with the scent of cinnamon and nutmeg in the air.
Times have changed though, spices such as nutmeg and cinnamon aren't just associated with cooking and baking anymore, they're being dangerously misused to induce a 'high' or a seriously dangerous 'thrill'.
When eggnog is topped with nutmeg or the spice is added to many different desserts or food recipes, it adds a flavor that keeps you coming back for more. But if a person chooses to snort, smoke or eat nutmeg by the spoonful, they may need to prepare themselves for an emergency room visit because that may very well be where they end up, just like many other kids have.
As crazy as it sounds, for the past several years a lot of young people are experimenting with different substances to get high off of and nutmeg is one of them. Nutmeg contains an ingredient called myristicin which produces a hallucinogenic effect if the dose is large enough and some young people are using the spice to induce a 'nutmeg high'. When large doses of nutmeg is snorted, smoked or eaten the side effects can be very serious and intense. Not only can a person experience abdominal pain, intense nausea, diarrhea and vomiting among other symptoms but, there's the possibility of coma and death although rare, it is a risk.
Getting high off of nutmeg isn't the only risky behavior some young people are trying today, the use of cinnamon and marshmallows are also sending some kids to the emergency room in the United States according to Medline Plus. Teens often take risks participating in activities they hear about online or from friends because they don't realize they're unsafe, they think of them as harmless innocent fun. To make matters worse, younger kids are hearing about these activities from siblings or friends and trying them too. The "Cinnamon Challenge" and "Chubby Bunny" are challenges some kids are playing but they don't realize the potential dangers involved.
The cinnamon challenge is a dangerous activity that's popularized online through hundreds of videos showing how the game is played and they're getting a lot of attention from young viewers. This activity entails swallowing a full tablespoon of cinnamon by itself without taking a drink. This causes the mouth and throat to burn which triggers the person to cough violently, but it can cause breathing problems or even choking.
The chubby bunny challenge involves stuffing your mouth with as many marshmallows as you can and then trying to say "chubby bunny". The internet is full of videos showing how this challenge is done but it's also extremely dangerous, 2 children that tried this game choked to death according to Medline Plus.
It's dangerous enough for teens but young children are hearing about these challenges too. Last year in 2011 there were fifty one calls received from poison centers in the United States associated with "teen exposure to cinnamon" and in the first 3 months of this year, 2012, there were 139 calls and 122 of them were "classified as intentional misuse or abuse".
I'm sure most parents aren't even aware these videos even exist online or that some kids are snorting, smoking or ingesting large amounts of nutmeg to get high. Cinnamon, nutmeg and marshmallows are all common ingredients most families have in their pantry and can lead to serious health issues and possibly even death when abused.
Most young kids and teens are easily influenced and will often try something they wouldn't normally do if they're pressured by their friends or 'dared' to do it. Through peer pressure some kids try smoking, drinking alcohol or even sniffing harmful chemicals because they want to fit in or they're trying to avoid being embarrassed in front of their friends. We can't keep our children safe all of the time but we can stay informed and try to keep the lines of communication open with them especially while they're young.