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Smoking nutmeg dangerous, officials say

Published: Tuesday, Nov. 30 2010 4:58 p.m. MST

SALT LAKE CITY — Nutmeg is drawing attention across the country as the latest "legal high," but the Utah Poison Control Center and local police say it is really not that new, and it can be very dangerous.

Videos on YouTube show college students and teens smoking and drinking nutmeg.

"I feel so weird right now. It's almost like smoking pot, but way different," a teen says in one video. "I'm not hallucinating, I just feel way different."

A man in another video cautions nutmeg is "an adults thing" after taking a smoke.

"You can, in fact, get high off of nutmeg," he slurs.

At the Utah Poison Control Center, director Barbara Insley Couch is concerned the videos are fueling a resurgence.

"Word of mouth spreads very well," Crouch said. "With the Internet, these ideas get perpetuated throughout, and kids experiment."

Crouch told KSL Newsradio on Tuesday that the center had only received a dozen calls about nutmeg over the past decade, but it's difficult to gauge how widespread usage is based on those calls.

"We don't tend to get calls about things if there aren't any problems," Crouch said.

Nutmeg abuse can lead to serious health consequences, including seizures and heart problems.

"It can alter blood pressure. It can alter heart rate, which could lead to rhythm disturbances in the heart," Crouch said.

Vomiting is common in less-serious cases.

Unified Police drug court supervisor Sgt. Scott Van Wagoner said he has seen little abuse locally, except with experimental teens.

"You're going to damage yourself — it's dangerous," he warned.

Sometimes, Van Wagoner said, teens will try to smoke oregano, too.

"Why put your health at risk by ingesting this for anything but its intended purpose?" Van Wagoner questioned. "My advice is: Don't experiment with anything. Life is enough of a high. You don't need to be out there trying illicit substances ... or nutmeg."

e-mail: aadams@desnews.com

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