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Non-toxicants: Substances That Won't Make You High

by Jen Burd

October 10, 2013

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Donate Remember those kids from high school who could make a bong out of absolutely anything? Those young MacGyvers who, having mastered the journeyman’s apple bong, had moved onto spring loaded, Rube Goldberg-inspired smoking contraptions? They hung out in the parking lot puffing on cigarettes and squandering their precious potential. They have a solid presence in undergraduate programs across the United States. Every school has them. Maybe you were one of them.

They seemed to have the preternatural ability to get high in any situation, aided by the knowledge that the planet earth is essentially a smorgasbord of exotic plant life and synthetic cleaners that will either get you high or kill you. But even the stoner kids make mistakes. The following substances have haunted stoner mythology for years, causing disappoint, bad vibes, and upset stomachs. I wouldn’t recommend trying any of them. I know that the parking lot stoners seem like a bunch of brainiacs, but they are human beings, and they have flaws.

  • Drinking Bong Water: FALSE

There’s an incredible plethora of information about marijuana on the internet these days. There are how-to’s, recipe guides, free articles searchable on Google Scholar, and even this catastrophe. But in the whirlwind of readily available data, I still managed to find plenty of message board posts like this:
can drinking bong water get you high? i know straight bong water tastes pretty bad. But i usually filter my bong loads with purple gaterade, and it doesnt taste all the bad, i acually like it. i got the idea that if i concentrated to gaterade enough i could drink it and get high when im in the car going on a vacation with the family, i could get high with out anyone knowing. "thanks
Water pipes are often advertised as a healthier way to smoke based on the fallacious claim that the water filters out carcinogens and “harmful toxins.” One might assume that while the water is magically filtering the smoke, some narcotic goodies may be left behind in the water. So if you drink the water, you’ll be drinking some of the THC from every bowl you’ve smoked since last time you changed the water. It’s just plain wasteful not to drink the water, right?

Drinking bong water not only won’t get you high, it will likely make you sick. THC, the active hallucinogen in marijuana, is not water soluble. This is why bongs work. The smoke passes through the water without losing much potency. The water in a bong collects some tar, resin, and bacteria, especially if it’s sitting around for days or weeks. Ingesting a stinky cocktail of marijuana remnants might make you vomit, but it will not get you high.

  • Bananas: FALSE

The myth of bananadine has had impressive longevity. It originated with a hoax in a 1967 issue of an underground newspaper calledBerkeleyBarb. In an attempt to trick authorities into banning bananas, editor Max Scherr published a recipe for a fictional psychoactive substance called bananadine, possibly inspired by the Donovan song “Mellow Yellow.” Instead of tricking authorities, Scherr has been tricking hippies for years. Media outlets across the country reprinted the recipe, encouraging wayward youths to experiment with bananas. William Powell, thoroughly duped, included this recipe for bananadine in The Anarchist Cookbook:
  1. Obtain 15 lb of ripe yellow bananas.

  2. Peel the bananas and eat the fruit. Save the peels.

  3. With a sharp knife, scrape off the insides of the peels and save thescraped material.

  4. Put all scraped material in a large pot and add water. Boil for three to four hours until it has attained a solid paste consistency.

  5. Spread this paste on cookie sheets, and dry it in an oven for about 20 minutes to a half an hour. This will result in a fine black powder. Makes about one pound of bananadine. Usually one will feel the effects of bananadine after smoking three or four cigarettes.

(Full recipe here.)

As far as bananadine recipes go, this is a fairly simple one. There are versions of the recipe all over the internet, along with testimonials from people who think they’ve actually gotten high this way (or may just be messing with the original poster). And then there’s this guy, a brave crusader for the truth about bananas, who has uncovered top secret intelligence regarding the DEA’s bananadine cover-up. I first heard of bananadine from a friend who had been told that recipe called for eating banana peels covered in toothpaste. I did not try it. Neither should you.

  • Catnip: TRUE if you’re a cat, FALSE if you’re human:

I will attribute this one to cat envy. Cats basically have it made. They’re born wearing full-body fur coats and they sleep most of the time. They clean themselves with their own tongues. They can jump higher than you, scratch harder than you, and rotate their ears 180 degrees. About 70-85% of cats can get bonkers after a small dose of catnip. Humans cannot.

In 1969, an article on the intoxicating effects of catnip appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The authors, Basil Jackson and Alan Reed, found that patients who smoked catnip experienced effects similar to those of marijuana. But readers noticed a problem; the picture labeled Nepeta cataria (catnip) was actually a marijuana plant. In a subsequent experiment, another JAMA writer found that a group of law enforcement officers could not tell the difference between marijuana and thyme.

Catnip is also lauded by some as an herbal remedy. It looks like marijuana, but it is a member of the mint family and shares some supposed (unsubstantiated) calming effects with herbs such as basil and lavender. It is sometimes infused in tea to treat indigestion.

Catnip has some interesting real-life applications, aside from making your cat hilarious. It is not recommended for pregnant women because it has been shown to induce menstruation. It is also an excellent bug repellent. Unfortunately, while it repels bugs, it attracts cats, and they can destroy a garden much more quickly than bugs.

If you’re a human, do not smoke catnip. Drinking it in tea is fairly safe and may have an invigorating placebo effect, but smoking a bunch of it will make you sick.

If you’re a cat, step away from the keyboard! The computer is not for you! Bad kitty!


by Jen Burd

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