Purported legal highs

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Purported legal highs include common foods and other substances which, if consumed in a certain way or in sufficient quantity, are rumoured to have psychoactive effects. Most frequently they are claimed to have similar effects to marijuana.

The reality of this ranges from urban legend, to some truth to the rumor, depending on the substance.

Urban legends[edit]

The placebo effect has a lot to answer for here. Keep in mind that if any of these really did have the claimed druggy effects, somebody would have made them illegal already. Mostly these are all a bunch of woo, for silly kids who can't get the real stuff because mommy won't let them out of the house.

Aspirin with Coca-Cola[edit]

Purportedly, consuming aspirin together with Coca-Cola gets you high. This is a rumor that has made the rounds from time to time among gullible teenagers. According to snopes.com,[1] this rumor goes all the way back to the 1930s, and like most of the others is baseless. The original Coca-Cola formula prior to 1904 however did contain alcohol and coca leaf extract.[2]

Banana peels[edit]

This was a hoax published in the Berkeley Barb newspaper in 1967, claiming the scrapings from banana peels contained a fictional drug called "bananadine", which would produce a brief marijuana-like high when smoked. It caused a brief shortage of bananas in Berkeley, California, and Donovan had a hit single, "Mellow Yellow", about the fad. Researchers have found the banana peel contains no intoxicating chemicals at all, but this has not stopped bored teenagers from continuing to conduct their own banana "experiments". You will probably have a more significant mind altering experience by actually drinking a Mello Yello or listening to The Dead Milkmen.[3]


Trippy, dude!

Catnip's (Nepeta cataria) apparent druggy effects on cats have not translated into a druggy effect on humans,[4] but goodness knows some have tried smoking or ingesting it in an attempt to replicate the effect. Best leave the catnip for your furry feline companion, and enjoy a cold beer instead. The active chemical in catnip, nepetalactone, does exhibit very minor sedative effects in humans and has been used by herbalists in the past as a mild sedative or a treatment,[5] but this is nowhere near a "high".

Starting in 2018, a product marketed as "catnip cocktail" was found to not be actual catnip but to contain an illegal drug, 1,4-butanediol, which is actually psychoactive and toxic.[6]


Jenkem is a gas produced from fermented fecal matter and urine. First reported in Zambia, it was considered a popular "drug of choice" by US teenagers in the mid 2000's. It is widely believed to be a hoax after it went too far and ended up on an official Sheriff's Office memo.[7][8]

Peanut skins[edit]

Along the same lines as the banana peel legend, a rumor that smoking peanut skins could get you high started among the late 1960s counterculture. As with banana peel, it takes a lot of fiddly effort and any resulting "high" is pure placebo.

Salicylic acid[edit]

Mobilat is a salve containing salicylic acid, used for muscle aches. In Finland, there's a common urban legend that if you shave your head and cover it with Mobilat, you get high.[9][10] At least there's the practical joke dimension in this - to get the victim to shave their head.


Heimia salicifolia

Sinicuichi is a brew formed from plants of the genus Heimia and was used ceremonially by the Aztecs. Some publications by Victor Reko and others spread the rumor that it was an auditory hallucinogen, but almost everyone who has tried it reports that it's extremely subtle (read: indistinguishable from placebo) and not worth the effort. Oh, and it generally causes severe muscle aches the day after.[11]

Marketing ploys[edit]

Brainwave woo[edit]

See the main article on this topic: Brainwave woo

There are various quack products or methods that are purported to bring you to a "higher state of consciousness" or replicate a legal high based on dubious claims about adjusting, manipulating, or synchronizing brainwaves. I-Doser is probably the most common of these.


See the main article on this topic: I-Doser

Can you get "high" just by listening to sounds? Only if they synchronize your brainwaves and cost $4 a time.

See also[edit]

Icon fun.svg For those of you in the mood, RationalWiki has a fun article about Legal highs.