Snake Bite Drug Addiction: Can You Get High on Snake Venom?
Some people will go to great lengths to get high.
While mind-altering drugs like nicotine, cannabis, and opium are among the most common recreational drugs in the world, some people have taken to injecting, swallowing, or smoking snake venom to get high, as well. People interested in finding the “next best thing” to heroin or opioids have turned to derivatives from snakes, reptiles, and scorpions to get their fix. Let’s investigate snakebite drug addiction and whether you can actually get high on snake venom.
Reports of Snake Bite Drug Addiction
Reports of snake bite drug addiction came after one particular study of a man who was regularly bit by a snake to keep up a high. The 33-year-old presented a history of substance abuse that spanned 15 years. He started smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol at 18 and eventually became dependent on tobacco and alcohol by the age of 24.1
From then, he started using opioids in the form of raw opium and poppy husk and eventually became dependent within a year. For years, he continued to use these substances concurrently, experiencing several failed attempts at quitting along the way.
A few months before researchers met him, the man had heard from some friends about the intoxicating effects of snake venom and how to use venom as a substitute for opioids. Out of curiosity, the man tried this new “snake bite drug” as a substitute for alcohol and opioids.
With the help of snake charmers, the man subjected himself to a snake bite at the tip of his tongue. Within the first hour, the man experienced side effects like jerky movements, blurred vision, and unresponsiveness, which can also be summed up as “blacking out”.1
After waking up from this blackout, however, the man claimed to have experienced a cobra venom high, including a sensation of well-being that lasted 3 to 4 weeks.1 According to the man, this state of pleasure was stronger than anything he had experienced while taking alcohol or opioids.
However, as with all drugs, getting high on snake venom has its downsides. After the snake venom high wore off, the man began to experience side effects like irritability, lethargy, and drug cravings.
For months, he continued to receive snake bites to sustain this high and only claimed to use alcohol and opioids 1 to 2 weeks after the venom’s effects would wear off. Eventually, the man was detoxed from snake venom with the help of medication-assisted treatment and inpatient drug treatment.1
Can You Get High on Snake Venom?
Yes, you can get high on snake venom. Symptoms associated with a snake bite high suggest that the venom of certain snakes have a neurotoxin nature that causes analgesia, or the inability to feel pain.
Analgesia is a common effect of narcotics like opioids and is the primary reason drugs of this class are prescribed. Forms of a neurotoxin found in cobra venom, particularly, were found to act on nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs), which are receptors that respond to the neurotransmitter acetylcholine.
nAChRs are the primary receptors that play a role in muscle contraction, which is probably why the man experienced jerky movements. Acetylcholine is also the chief neurotransmitter of the parasympathetic system, contributing to muscle contraction, blood vessel dilation, bodily secretions, and reducing heart rate.
By acting through acetylcholine, nAChRs can substitute morphine and mitigate opioid withdrawal. This may explain the frequent use of snake venom among opioid users in the study, which included another eight men.1
nAChRs are also believed to be involved in the mesolimbic pathway or dopaminergic pathway in the brain. Here is where dopamine is released whenever we expect to receive a reward or when we do something enjoyable.
Dopamine release plays a major role in drug use and addiction, as it encourages further drug-taking behavior. Simply put, you can get high on snake venom (specifically cobra) because it produces the same analgesia and euphoria that opioids produce.
Risks of Getting High Off Snake Venom
The dose of snake venom these the man or other case studies in the report received is unknown. Therefore, the report is unable to measure how much cobra snake venom produces a high.
In addition to its propensity for addiction, using snake venom to get high is extremely dangerous because, at the end of the day, it’s venom! Snakes use this to paralyze and kill their prey, so it doesn’t make for a “safe” recreational drug (although no recreational drugs are).
Additionally, because it’s impossible to know the dose of venom released in one snake bite every time, there’s no way to prevent overdose or death when using snake venom for recreational purposes. The neurotoxicity in snake venom, while it may produce a high, can also lead to paralysis and death.
Help for Addiction
Usually, people who attempt to use substances or solutions to get high that don’t fall into average drug classes are addicted to actual drugs or alcohol. Oftentimes, seeking out other substances like snake venom is an attempt at finding a cheaper alternative to drugs.
If you’re addicted to drugs or alcohol, don’t wait to get help. Not only can these substances destroy your health and relationships, but the desire to whet your appetite for getting high may only lead to more dangerous forms of substance abuse.
Our Massachusetts treatment center offers various levels of care for substance abuse treatment, including a variety of partial hospitalization and outpatient services. We also help patients overcome the emotional and psychological impact of addiction through individual and group therapy modalities.
Alyssa who is the National Director of Digital Marketing, joined the Banyan team in 2016, bringing her five-plus years of experience. She has produced a multitude of integrated campaigns and events in the behavioral health and addictions field. Through strategic marketing campaign concepts, Alyssa has established Banyan as an industry leader and a national household name.
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