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Kitchen cupboards giving kids a cheap holiday high

Mom’s kitchen once for cooking and baking now a source of children becoming high

Nutmeg very slow-acting and takes as long as four to five hours before a user feels the mind-altering effects of nutmeg.
Teen thrill seekers looking for a cheap high now turn to Cinnamon, nutmeg and even marshmallows which can lead to abuse.

If you thought you were shocked before on what kids can find around the house to get high on from prescription pills to whipped cream, kids now have found another way to get high and it is cheap and very accessible, all they need to do is walk into the kitchen and open up the cupboards. The holiday season appears to be the jackpot when it comes to finding items to become high.

From cinnamon to marshmallows are all ingredients causing risky behaviors and kids are pushing the limits when it comes to their creativity that gets them attention and a drug-like effect that places them under the radar of law enforcement officers. This latest news from Dr. Christina Hantsch, MD, FACEP, FACMT, toxicologist, Department of Emergency Medicine at Loyola University Health System, and professor of medicine at Loyola.

Just recently the emergency room at Loyola treated a dozen pre-teen children who were attempting the Cinnamon Challenge and got caught. The Cinnamon Challenge is a game challenging people to swallow a teaspoon of cinnamon without water in 60 seconds. This game has gone viral with teens uploading thousands of videos on YouTube and Facebook of those attempting the challenge. According to Dr. Hantsch, "One girl had seen the videos on the Internet and wanted to try it with her friends.” . "The dry, loose cinnamon triggers a violent coughing effect and also a burning sensation that actually can lead to breathing and choking hazards.”

According to the American Association of Poison Control Center’s National Poison Data System, from January to March of this year, poison centers received 139 calls regarding teen exposure to cinnamon, and 30 required medical evaluation. In 2011, poison centers received 51 calls regarding cinnamon exposure. Among the 139 calls this year 22 were classified as intentional misuse or abuse and 30 callers required medical evaluation.

What once was considered horseplay has Dr. Hantsch concerned as young children are now copying older teens. "They have easy access to ingredients like cinnamon and marshmallows and think it is cool to do what their older peers are doing,” remarks Hantsch.

Another challenge that has been around awhile and is still getting attention is called the Chubby Bunny. The rules of the game; the competitor stuffs as many marshmallows as possible into their mouths and tries to say the phrase chubby bunny. No swallowing or chewing is allowed and anyone who gags, coughs or spits out the marshmallows is out of the game. Two children have actually choked to death attempting this game so it is not to be taken lightly,” says Hantsch.

On June 4, 1999, the game claimed the life of 12 year old Catherine “Casey” Fish. The game was scheduled for the annual Care Fair held at Hoffman Elementary School, Chicago’s North Shore area. According to reports the game was to be supervised but Casey along with some of her friends started playing the game while the teacher had stepped away for a moment. Casey collapsed and was rushed to Glenbrook Hospital where she died a few hours later. Fish's parents subsequently sued the school district and appeared on Oprah to warn about the dangers of Chubby Bunny. Six years after the death of their daughter, John and Therese Fish agreed to a $2 million settlement with Glenview Elementary School District 34 and her teacher.

Children are not the only ones playing this dangerous game, sometimes adults are not too smart themselves. On September 12, 2006, Janet Rudd, 32, from London, Ontario, Canada died in a Chubby Bunny competition at the Western Fair. St John Ambulance volunteers came to Rudd's aid with a defibrillator and suction equipment, but were unable to remove the blockage in the unconscious woman's throat.

Ground nutmeg has now been added to the list with teens smoking, snorting and ingesting large amounts. Nutmeg contains myristicin which is a hallucinogenic, like LSD,"says Dr. Hantsch. Do not forget the other household products being abused which include drinking hand sanitizer, abusing cough medicine called Robo-Tripping, Dexing and Skittling. The American Medical Association released a warning to parents that when taken in large amounts it can be dangerous and deadly that acts as a mind-altering drug.

We remember the stories on a synthetic marijuana called Spice, or K2, which is popular since it cannot be detected in standard drug tests. Hantsch says "Spice is popular right now because it is marketed as a legal high, which it is not, but is dangerous because it has more adverse effects than cannabis." The poison centers received 4,905 calls about exposure to K2 or Spice between January 1 through November 30, 2012.

In closing Dr. Hantsch states "Seemingly silly games can have sinister effects and the holidays are the worst time for this to happen.” "Kids have more free time, greater access to the Internet and more opportunities to get together during vacations. And at Christmas, the kitchen pantry is loaded for holiday baking. Adults are wise to keep an eye on their children to make sure they are using the ingredients for their proper use."


Alerts from the American Association for Poison Control can be found online at their website.

Poison centers offer free, confidential medical advice 24 hours a day, seven days a week through the Poison Help Line at 1-800-222-1222.