Food Highs: Can Some Benign Ingredients Really Take You Higher?
The market is currently flooded with a literally dizzying array of foods and drinks whose sole purpose is mood enhancement and consciousness modification. These include everything from turbocharged energy drinks fortified with massive amounts of caffeine and taurine to melatonin-laden cookies and cakes to make you pass out before the cookie crumbs hit the floor. At quick glance, our convenience food culture now very much mirrors our expanding culture of serotonin-specific reuptake inhibitors (or SSRIs), which provides and ever-shifting selection of moods and states of consciousness to choose from. But the notion of altering one’s mood or consciousness through food and drink is nothing new (especially not drink) and there exist an array of foods that have been known and proven to be mood altering, and in some cases, get you nominally (if not particularly) high
This is the most obvious and most widely acceptable form of self-medication practiced today. With the popularity of coffee culture being at its apex, being habitually medically stoned from coffee is the now the norm for millions. For example, a “grande” cup of Starbucks coffee (16 oz) delivers 330 mg of caffeine, and technically, caffeine intoxication begins at around 260 mg. Potentially dangerous caffeine intoxication happens around 500 mg (depending on your weight and tolerance) and can produce hallucinations, paranoia, convulsions, confusion, and diarrhea. If anything, this would not be a high anyone would want to take to the extreme.
Nutmeg, an eggnog-lovers best friend, also holds psychoactive properties. Nutmeg contains the organic compound myristicin, which produces a sort of nausea-laden high. In The Autobiography of Malcolm X he wrote: “I first got high in Charlestown on nutmeg. My cellmate … bought from kitchen worker inmates penny matchboxes full of stolen nutmeg … stirred into a glass of cold water, a penny matchbox full of nutmeg had the kick of three or four reefers.” While cheap and legal, the amount of nutmeg one has to ingest to get anywhere is sizable, and there is a fine line between just enough, and too much. Nutmeg ingestion (beyond the small amount used in eggnog and holiday treats) in extreme amounts produces hallucinations, nausea, paranoia, difficulty urinating, and mild flu-like symptoms.
Rye grain, that staple of northern and Eastern Europe, as well as health food stores, has some well-documented hallucinogenic properties. According to a piece in The Guardian UK, rye is the grain most susceptible to the ergot fungus, also part of the genus Claviceps. Ergot is the fungus from which the precursor to LSD is derived and the cause of the medical condition ergotism, also known as St Anthony’s fire, which causes hallucinations and convulsions. The fungus also acts as a vasoconstrictor, reducing blood circulation, resulting in intense burning sensations and even the loss of limbs through gangrene. But not to worry, ergot outbreaks are rare and most contemporary rye production involves cleaning the grain with a potassium chloride solution to prevent ergotism. That said, consumption of ergot-infected grains is a possible explanation for the Salem witch trials as well as an assortment of other old-timey panics and superstitions.
It only makes sense that by ingesting the seed of the narcotic opium poppy that some sort of consciousness altering would take place. However poppy seed highs are very rare and almost impossible to obtain. The amount of poppy seed muffins one would have to eat to access any sense of euphoria would probably provide extreme gastrointestinal distress before it got you anywhere close to being high. Still, poppy seeds do contain very small amounts of the opium alkaloids morphine and codeine, which won’t get you high but might cause you to fail a drug test.