• Hamilton “investigates” hallucinogenic fish in Madagascar. (SBS)Source: SBS
We, of course, are not advocating the abuse of these foods. Be safe out there kids.
Jim Mitchell

9 May 2017 - 3:26 PM  UPDATED 9 May 2017 - 3:26 PM

We all know about magic mushrooms, but there’s a plethora of other foods and foodstuffs that also can give you a certain prolonged euphoria. In Hamilton’s Pharmacopeia, our host and guinea pig Hamilton Morris dives deep in an effort to understand psychotropic fish. While you’re unlikely to find these slippery suckers on your dinner plate any time soon, you could find yourself getting high from a spot of baking, a red-hot snack or several cups of joe. Here are some things to look out for if you don’t want to be seeing things.



Here’s something to consider next time you’re cooking with nutmeg - if you’re using a whack of it, you could get high. The spice contains the compound myristicin, which can have a psychoactive effect. It’s been used to make MMDA and a related compound safrole can been used in the manufacture of Ecstasy.

Iconic human rights activist Malcolm X wrote about using nutmeg as a natural drug during his incarceration in Charlestown in 1946 in The Autobiography of Malcolm X. A popular method of getting high in prisons because it was legal and cheap, he wrote that a penny matchbox full of nutmeg mixed with cold water “had the kick of three or four reefers". Noted drug experimentalist William S Burroughs also tried it, describing its negative side effects of headaches and nausea.

But you’d need a good dose of it - two tablespoons or more - to get high, and that might include an out-of-body experience and a slowing of brain function. It’s not known to be a pleasant high, though, with vomiting, nausea and dry mouth common side effects.


Rye grain

It seems a stretch, but back in the Dark Ages, this seemingly innocuous grain may have landed you on trial for witchery. Back then, rye grain was kept in moist conditions that could lead to the development of the fungal disease ergot, from which the precursor to LSD comes. When consumed, the ergot-diseased rye can cause symptoms like convulsions, hallucinations, delirium, psychosis, tingling fingers and crawling skin, characteristics attributed to possession and witchery.

It would be extremely rare to get high on a rye bread sandwich these days with our modern production methods, but in less developed countries in the world it’s still a possibility, as well as places where rye grain is heavily consumed and affected by moisture.



Yep, your black gold pick-me-up could make you see things. A 2009 study found people who consume three cups of brewed coffee might find themselves more likely to hallucinate. A high caffeine intake (coffee, chocolate, tea, energy drinks, pills) in participants made them three times more likely to hear voices not there than those who had half a cup of brewed coffee.

Researchers noted that caffeine could exacerbate the physiological effects of stress, increasing the tendency to hallucinate. Some participants even experienced seeing dead people. 


Really hot chillies

You may remember one Homer Simpson having quite the trip after eating a hallucinogenic chilli, guided by a wise coyote voiced by Johnny Cash.

It turns out you really can get high if you choose to take up the challenge of chewing on a really, really, really hot chilli. Amateur chilli grower Ed Currie says the potency of a red-hot chilli comes from the high level of capsaicin, the compound in peppers that creates the mouth-fire.

"Your heart will race, you'll sweat. You might shake, you might throw up,” he told NPR. “But once it gets into your blood stream and gets into your brain, the capsaicin releases the same endorphins that narcotics do. So you get a euphoric feeling."


Watch Hamilton's Pharmacopeia on Tuesdays at 8:30pm on SBS VICELAND.

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