The idea that you can get high from eating the heads of sea bream might sound fishy, but it's true—just ask the two Frenchmen who tripped out after a seafood dinner in 2006. One of them, aged 90, suffered auditory hallucinations and terrifying nightmares for the next two nights, while his 40-year-old companion saw horrible sights for 36 straight hours. The pair had been hit by a grave case of icthyoallyeinotoxism—the technical term for getting high off fish. The ancient Romans, as you'd expect, used to do sarpa salpa heads recreationally. But don't plan your psychedelic fishing trip just yet. The effects come from indole, a substance found in the algae and plankton in the sarpa salpa's diet, and which accumulates in its head. The levels of hallucinogens present vary greatly. Which means you could chew on fish heads for hours and still not see a single tiny winged devil.
Licking toads is one of those timeless urban legends that we've all heard—maybe you saw it on The Simpsons. But as with many things Homer does, you probably shouldn't copy him. Firstly, it's gross. Secondly, all toads are toxic. Thirdly, only one specific type of toad can get you high—and chances are the toad you just found isn't it. The whole “licking toads” rumor apparently began when someone saw some hippies chasing the warty amphibians through the woods. But the "proper" way to get high off them is hardly more appetizing: You have to hold your toad, gently massaging the soft venom sacks on the sides of its head and "milk" its viscous white venom onto a piece of glass. Dry, scrape and smoke—but not too often. Even though most of the poisonous bufotenin is burned off, the buildup from repeated toad-toking can kill you.
Suburban kids needn't look further than the spice rack for this high—yet the feds still haven't scheduled it. Perhaps that's because it keeps you high-but-nauseous for about 24 hours, leaves you with an incapacitating flu-like hangover for days and tastes absolutely awful—but even knowing that might not stop most enterprising teens. Almost all discussion about the over-the-kitchen-counter drug consists of strategies on how to make it taste less revolting, usually by mixing it into various liquids like milk or water a la Malcolm X tea. Online searches also reveal futile tips on how to mitigate the dreaded cotton mouth and dry eyes that users suffer. Despite all this awfulness, nutmeg's sheer accessibility keeps it popular.
Gullible teenagers looking for a high are a ripe market, but substances tend to draw the ire of their elders. Enter "I-Dosing"—digital "drug" recordings that claim to use the power of sound to alter your state of mind. For a dollar or two a pop, you can close your eyes, put on your headphones and trip out on “marijuana” or “cocaine” with zero side effects. At one point, I-Dosing caused a moral panic: the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics even put out a wire to parents about how their kids were getting twisted on MP3s. But reports from tech bloggers and The Fix indicate that it is not, in fact, possible to get a chemical high from these sounds. It's really just unscientific binarual beat therapy repackaged to con kids out of a few bucks (but don't tell that to these true believers). Hey, at least it keeps them off the real stuff.
No, this isn't teen slang for some nefarious new drug; we are actually talking about the candy bar. Twix-smoking is a trend that—thanks to social media—just won't quite fizzle out. The Fixwas taught the simple technique by some young people last year: Bite off both ends, put one end in your mouth, hold a lighter at the other end (because it ain't gonna stay lit) and inhale. Reports of the ensuing "trip" range from “It tastes like s'mores” to “And now there's melted chocolate all over my lap.” It's fairly obvious that breathing burning chocolate through the porous biscuit inside a candy bar won't get you high. Somehow that doesn't seem to dampen the attraction.
Kids have been looking for ways to get high at home since way back when. In one newspaper article from 1976, for example—charmingly entitled "Less Fun in Smoking Nowadays"—a man waxed nostalgic about how he used to sneakily smoke corn silk when his pappy wasn't looking. He recalls how boys used to dry the silks in a secret place, roll them up in papers stolen from their smoker dads and get puffing. It wasn't just the kids either: Farmers who couldn't afford tobacco did the same. Some rural Iowans reportedly do it to this day to top off a long day's work. But does it get you high? Aside from the intoxicating effect of limiting the brain's oxygen intake, no. But herbalists claim that it's good for your bladder if you take it in a tea.
Those teens must still be really bored: Enter peanut shells and/or skins. The first red flag about this practice should be that no one seems to be sure about which part of the peanut you're supposed to smoke. Some advise that you spend the better part of a day peeling off the thin skins, while others tell you to crush up the shells and smoke 'em. Apparently the myth of their effectiveness began in the largely un-factualAnarchist's Cookbook, where the recipe calls for the shells of raw peanuts. If peanuts really did get you high, this practice would be a lot more popular than is currently the case. And all that secondhand smoke would leave people with peanut allergies in mortal peril.
Toads aren't the only port of call for those who seek a high via toxic goo that's seeped from the skin of an amphibian. But even more than toad-smoking, this recipe requires an unpalatable dose of animal cruelty. The hallucinogenic brew is made by tossing live salamanders into a barrel of fermenting fruit—so they excrete poisonous mucous from their skins in a hopeless attempt to prevent their bodies from absorbing ethanol, until the poor creatures die of exhaustion. Drinking this concoction reportedly results in hallucinations and—if certain Slovenians are to be believed—some powerful aphrodisiac effects. Removing the salamander corpses is optional.
How do you extract banandine from bananas? First, acquire 15 pounds—yes, really—of bananas. Scrape off the insides of the skins, boil up the scraped pulp and then leave it in the oven until it becomes a fine black powder. This is precious bananadine—smoke three or four cigarettes of this to get high...or not. Because there's no such thing as bananadine. That didn't stop people in the '60s from freaking out in the belief that Donovan's song, “Mellow Yellow,” was based on partaking in this scourge. Even the FDA got pretty worried. So who started this nonsense? Some say it was a prank by singer Country Joe McDonald. Others blame a hoax by the underground paper Berkeley Barb. For some reason, no one suspects the banana industry.
Legend has it that Arctic shamans once stalked reindeer that dined on hallucinogenic fly-agaric mushrooms in order to collect their urine...and then drink it for its trippy effects. People drinking shroom-tainted reindeer pee sound too far-fetched to you? Andy Letcher, author of Shroom: A Cultural History of the Magic Mushroom, thought so too. That is, until he met a Scandinavian deer herder who did just that at a get-together with some indigenous Saami people. It turns out that the active ingredient in the toxic fly-agarics, ibogenic acid, passes through the reindeer's body largely unmetabolized, while the poisons are conveniently filtered out—giving humans a (relatively) nausea-free psychedelic high. Some even speculate that Christmas traditions are built around the fly-agaric 'shroom, complete with Santa's red 'n' white palette and his “flying” reindeer.