People Are Snorting Chocolate to Get High


There are certain images that come to mind when you hear a sentence that includes the words “powder” and “clubbing.” Almost as a rule, those images have nothing to do with chocolate. That’s why a small but growing trend of using cocoa (not to be confused with coca) to achieve an energetic high is an unexpected turn of events. You can pop cocoa pills, snort cocoa powder up your nose or go the old-fashioned route and drink it. According to adherents, who are apparently popping up on new sites all the time, it’s a new source of fuel.

Belgian chocolatier Dominique Persoone made plenty of headlines last year when word spread about his “chocolate shooter,” a device invented to help users “get a few [milligrams] of our cocoa spice catapulted directly into both nasal cavities,” per the website. Persoone says he originally invented the machine, which he based on a device his snuff-sniffing grandfather used, for a 2007 party held by the Rolling Stones. (Specifically Ronnie Wood and Charlie Watts. Why, who were you thinking?) It was, apparently, a big hit with the crowd.

"They asked us to put some jokes into the menu, so one of the things we did was make a dessert with different structures of raspberry,” Persoone told the Wall Street Journal in 2011. “Instead of putting chocolate on the dish, because they were the rock 'n' roll grandpas, we thought they should sniff the chocolate and to get a good result we designed a machine for that. We just made one for that party, but then everybody talked about it in the newspapers, so then we had to make it commercial because everybody was asking for it."

He’s since sold more than 25,000 of the gadgets, according to Reuters, which can be bought online in packages that include two boxes of cocoa spice. An early failed version of the powder recipe included chili powder, which Persoone now describes as a “very bad idea.” The current blend mixes cocoa with ginger or mint, which Persoone says “really tinkle[s] your nose. Then the mint flavor goes down and the chocolate stays in your brain.”

Raw cocoa, in other forms, is also being pushed by some party throwers. Ozy visited Lucid, a monthly party held in club capital Berlin, which eschews alcohol but makes cocoa drinks for patrons, who then dance to house and hip-hop for up to six hours at a stretch. The outlet also cites Morning Gloryville—one of those sober, early-riser rave parties that started to become a thing a couple years ago—which features cocoa pills for those who need a…um, bump. Ozy notes that the physiological effects are far less intense than those of mind-altering substances, from illicit Molly to legal alcohol. But cocoa does deliver a flood of endorphins, which actual scientists compare to morphine, in terms of pleasurable effects.

Proponents say that raw, virgin cacao is far more potent than you ever imagined. First comes a surge of endorphins into your bloodstream, which increases acuity and fuels you with feelings of euphoria. Then there’s the flood of magnesium, which relaxes your muscles and de-tenses your body. Raw cacao is also chock-full of flavanols that increase blood circulation and stimulate brain power, according to a recent study from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Of course, despite the clean-living vibes, there are naysayers. In particular, Persoone’s snorting method gets less than rave reviews from a few health care professionals.

"Snorting chocolate powder is not safe, because the powder is perceived by the nose as a foreign toxic substance," Dr. Jordan Josephson told Live Science, explaining that users can damage delicate parts of the nose. "Putting any foreign bodies [in the nasal cavity]—including smoke, cocaine and/or chocolate powder—is not safe and is not advised.”

Dr. Daniel Rutherford, who based on his quote is also very British, echoed the sentiments to the Independent.

“If one is too keen on sniffing any finely ground powder to the extent that you get it into your lungs, you are asking for trouble,” Rutherford said. “If you just take a modest whiff of the stuff so that it only gets into the nasal lining then I suggest it will actually mix with nasal mucus and get swallowed down the back of the throat rather than going ‘straight to the brain,’ so you might as well eat it in the first place.”

Despite headlines proclaiming cocoa powder the hot new club thing, it’s probably a more than safe bet it won’t be making other party drugs obsolete anytime soon. Or ever. Still, it is having a moment.

"I'm not the bad boy promoting drugs, not at all,” Persoone, shown below demonstrating how to use his cocoa snorting machine, told Reuters. “Life is boring. Let's have fun.”

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