Teens Getting High On Betel Nuts May Lead To Ban In Ohio

By Victoria Kim 03/16/17

Police say teens are chewing betel nuts like smokeless tobacco to get high. 

Packages of Betel Nut
Packages of Betel Nut Photo via YouTube

After allegedly busting some local teenagers getting high on betel nuts, police in central Ohio are out to ban the natural stimulant.

“We want to make sure we keep this out of the hands of students at the very least,” Reynoldsburg Police Chief Jim O’Neill said, according to Click On Detroit. “We would like to see distribution and possession completely outlawed.”

Police in Reynoldsburg, a town just outside of Columbus, claim they’ve caught high schoolers using betel nuts and acting dazed and disoriented, while the Cuyahoga County Board of Health says there’s no evidence that it’s being abused.

The police are now working with the FDA and Ohio Department of Agriculture to look into the health risks of betel nuts, and to ultimately ban it.

The betel nut is not very known in the United States, but more than 600 million people use it worldwide. It’s technically called the areca nut, which is a seed grown from the areca palm. 

The use of betel nuts has been used for thousands of years in cultural and religious rituals throughout South Asia. It is also used in the practice of Ayurvedic and Chinese medicines, as a remedy for everything from removing parasites to curing bad breath.

It grows in Southeast and South Asia, where it’s commonly used as a chewable energy boost for people working long hours. Globally, it’s the fourth most popular drug, after caffeine, alcohol and tobacco. 

But long-term use can produce more serious health risks. They include a slew of dental problems including loss of teeth, oral cancer and addiction. A 2015 study showed that the betel nut’s active ingredient, arecoline, affects the same brain receptor proteins as nicotine.

The health risks and widespread use have led some governments, like in Taiwan and Papua New Guinea, to take legislative action against the betel nut.

But it hasn’t been easy to enforce these policies. The government in Papua New Guinea is reportedly having trouble policing its ban on selling and chewing betel nuts in public. Last year the Telegraph reported that police had set up road blocks to nab violators of this policy. 

Taiwan enacted a similar policy in 2014, banning people from spitting betel nut juice in Taipei, its capital city.

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr