Residents of Pakistan’s remote Khyber Pass region are taking to a new drug of choice: scorpion venom. According to an article originally published by Pakistani newspaper Dawn, the drug is gaining popularity in a region already dealing with widespread opium addiction. One user interviewed for the article, 74-year-old Sohbat Khan, reports having smoked scorpions for over 50 years due to its potency:
“Hashish and heroin’s so-called relief is nothing in front of scorpion [...] Everything appears like it is dancing. The roads, the vehicles, everything in front of me.”
To harvest the scorpion’s venom, the dead insects are first dried and then ground into a powder. The powdered carcasses can then be mixed with tobacco or hashish or smoked as a standalone drug. Users of this macabre narcotic report experiencing powerful hallucinogenic effects that last several hours. Doctors in Pakistan, naturally, are warning citizens not to smoke or ingest scorpion venom, as it could have many harmful side effects such as memory loss, insomnia, or even eating disorders. To make this habit even more dangerous, some 25 species of scorpions produce venom that can be fatal to humans.
The use of scorpion venom as a narcotic is somewhat common throughout India and Southeast Asia. In India, some users skip the drying and smoking process and allow live scorpions to administer their venom directly by stinging. While some individuals might find recreational uses for the venom, others in the medical fields are concerned that widespread use might limit the supply of scorpion venom which could otherwise be used in medical treatments. So far, scorpion venom has been found to have antimicrobial and anticancer effects, be effective as an insecticide, and useful as a potassium channel blocker for cardiac arrest treatment.
While smoking the powdered corpses of scorpions might seem ghoulish, just consider that just a few hundred years ago Europeans were smoking powdered human mummies. When it comes to tuning in and dropping out, it seems very little is sacred.