Stupid drug story of the week: The nutmeg scare.

Media criticism.
Dec. 14 2010 5:51 PM

Stupid Drug Story of the Week

The nutmeg scare.

(Continued from Page 1)

How dangerous is nutmeg use? It's hard to tell from reading the popular press. The only place in the medical literature where I found statistics on death by nutmeg intoxication was the March 2005 edition of Emergency Medicine Journal, which cited another journal: An 8-year-old died from nutmeg at the beginning of the 20th century and a 55-year-old died similarly at the beginning of the 21st century.

The authors of the Emergency Medicine Journal assume—correctly, I think—that nutmeg deaths have been underreported. So nobody should seize on these two lone deaths to prove the "safety" of nutmeg use. But at the same time, the recent wave of nutmeg reporting brings us no substantive study about the temporary or lasting damage it does to users. (I am, however, curious to know more about how nutmeg smokers are faring. Until the most recent reports surfaced, I had never heard of nutmeg smoking. When drugs that were previously swallowed or inhaled start to be smoked, catastrophe can occur. I see nothing on smoking nutmeg in the medical database PubMed. Editors: Please assign this piece!)

Advertisement

Historically, the biggest brake on the use of nutmeg has been the overwhelming unpleasantness of the experience. As the July 1988 Journal of Accident & Emergency Medicine puts it, when nutmeg is taken in excess "a typical and unpleasant clinical syndrome ensues."

"This," the Journal authors conclude, "is why nutmeg abuse is virtually unheard of nowadays, with teenagers more likely to encounter it at the dinner table than on the street corner."

Addendum, Dec. 16: The Poison Review  correctly chides me for not finding and linking to this 2001 article  about the 55-year-old who died a nutmeg-related death. The deceased appears to have died from combining nutmeg and Rohypnol, not from nutmeg alone.

******

Thanks to Joel Hruska and all the other readers who pelted me with cans of nutmeg encouraging me to write about this topic. Send your nutmeg confessionals to slate.pressbox@gmail.com and pour me an eggnog at my Twitter feed. (E-mail may be quoted by name in "The Fray," Slate's readers' forum; in a future article; or elsewhere unless the writer stipulates otherwise. Permanent disclosure: Slate is owned by the Washington Post Co.)

Track my errors: This hand-built RSS feed will ring every time Slate runs a "Press Box" correction. For e-mail notification of errors in this specific column, type the word nutmeg in the subject head of an e-mail message, and send it to slate.pressbox@gmail.com.

Like Slate on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Talking White

Black people’s disdain for “proper English” and academic achievement is a myth.

Hong Kong’s Protesters Are Ridiculously Polite. That’s What Scares Beijing So Much.

The One Fact About Ebola That Should Calm You: It Spreads Slowly

Operation Backbone

How White Boy Rick, a legendary Detroit cocaine dealer, helped the FBI uncover brazen police corruption.

A Jaw-Dropping Political Ad Aimed at Young Women, Apparently

The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 4:05 PM Today in GOP Outreach to Women: You Broads Like Wedding Dresses, Right?
Music

How Even an Old Hipster Can Age Gracefully

On their new albums, Leonard Cohen, Robert Plant, and Loudon Wainwright III show three ways.

How Tattoo Parlors Became the Barber Shops of Hipster Neighborhoods

This Gargantuan Wind Farm in Wyoming Would Be the Hoover Dam of the 21st Century

Moneybox
Oct. 1 2014 8:34 AM This Gargantuan Wind Farm in Wyoming Would Be the Hoover Dam of the 21st Century To undertake a massively ambitious energy project, you don’t need the government anymore.
  News & Politics
Politics
Oct. 1 2014 7:26 PM Talking White Black people’s disdain for “proper English” and academic achievement is a myth.
  Business
Buy a Small Business
Oct. 1 2014 11:48 PM Inking the Deal Why tattoo parlors are a great small-business bet.
  Life
Outward
Oct. 1 2014 6:02 PM Facebook Relaxes Its “Real Name” Policy; Drag Queens Celebrate
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 5:11 PM Celebrity Feminist Identification Has Reached Peak Meaninglessness
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 1 2014 3:24 PM Revelry (and Business) at Mohonk Photos and highlights from Slate’s annual retreat.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 1 2014 9:39 PM Tom Cruise Dies Over and Over Again in This Edge of Tomorrow Supercut
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 1 2014 6:59 PM EU’s Next Digital Commissioner Thinks Keeping Nude Celeb Photos in the Cloud Is “Stupid”
  Health & Science
Science
Oct. 1 2014 4:03 PM Does the Earth Really Have a “Hum”? Yes, but probably not the one you’re thinking.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 1 2014 5:19 PM Bunt-a-Palooza! How bad was the Kansas City Royals’ bunt-all-the-time strategy in the American League wild-card game?