Sep 28, 2018 I Brett Tingley

Addicted to Opioids? Try Letting a Cobra Bite Your Tongue

People to go great and unusual lengths to get really, really high. I’ll admit, I tried some questionable substances while at university in my quest to “expand my mind, man” or whatever, but I never went so far as to smoke scorpion corpses or snort raw cocoa. You’ve got to have standards when it comes to poisoning yourself into a recreational stupor.

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"Dude...I finally get why they call it 'space."

Or maybe you don’t. You do you, I won’t judge. Unless you let cobras bite your tongue in order to get weird, in which case you need to examine your priorities a little bit. While you might scoff at the idea, it’s apparently more common than you would think in India to use cobra venom to get high. And what’s the best way to get cobra venom into your system? Why, sticking out your tongue and inviting the deadly serpent to sink its fangs right in, of course.

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"Ick, seriously? I don't know where your tongue has been."

The Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine has published yet another example of an Indian man seeking out cobra venom after the usual narcotics quit working. The 33-year-old man had a 15-year history of substance abuse and had tried every drug he could get his hands on. The man’s addiction began with alcohol and tobacco, but when those quit working in recent years he turned to raw opium and poppy husks. I mean come on dude, everyone knows you have to take a tolerance break every once in a while. Diminishing returns.

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Much cooler than your dealer.

When these powerful opioids quit working, a friend recommended cobra venom. The man sought out local snake charmers who were able to provide the man with a bite on the tongue. The result? “Jerky movements of the body, blurring of vision, and unresponsiveness” followed by “a heightened arousal and sense of well being which lasted for 3-4 weeks.” While that sounds pretty groovy on its own, the authors of the published case study of this misguided seeker point out that the cobra venom actually seemed to reduce the man’s need for other substances:

According to patient, during these 3–4 weeks, he did not have any craving for alcohol and opioids and did not consume the same. After this, he started indulging in the snake bite every 3–4 weeks, so as to experience the sense of well-being and high associated with the snake bite. Over the period, his use of opioids and alcohol reduced and most of use of these would be seen after 1–2 weeks of snake bite.

Interestingly, while this case is on one hand a cautionary tale about the lengths some people go to in order to feel different for a few hours, the researchers point out that the case may also indicate that snake venom could be used to treat and reduce opioid dependency. Is this what we need to solve the opioid crisis in the U.S. - dump trucks full of venomous cobras? 

Brett Tingley

Brett Tingley is a writer and musician living in the ancient Appalachian mountains.

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