Supposedly there is a somewhat new drug trend among adolescents looking for a cheap and legal high: Jenkem. Supposedly a hallucinogenic inhalant that is made from fermented human waste. In the mid-1990s, it was reported to be a popular street drug among Zambian street children.
Is this really going on here in American schools and homes? There was a short-lived media frenzy about the Jenkem myth back in November of 2007; American media reports made false claims that Jenkem was a popular drug in American schools. Other sources had found that American media coverage on Jenkem was based on a hoax and on unreliable Internet research.
The Jenkem Myth or Reality: Origins
The name derives from Genkem, a brand of glues that had become the general term for all the glues abused children in South Africa. In the book Children of AIDS: Africa’s Orphan Crisis by Emma Guest, Jenkem is described as “fermented human sewage, scraped from pipes and stored in plastic bags for a week or so, until it gives off numbing, intoxicating fumes.” A BBC article from 1999 also documented the process as well as an IPS report from 1995.
Jenkem Myth or Reality: What Effects Does It Cause?
Jenkem is inhaled and it effects can last for around an hour. The Jenkem user experiences auditory and visual hallucinations. It has been described as more potent than marijuana. An anesthesia specialist in Boston conducted a study on the effects of “sewer gas,” or technically hydrogen sulfide gas, on mice and compared it to holding one’s breath, choking, or inhaling gases from Jenkem, stating that it results in hypoxia, or a lack of oxygen flow to the body, which could explain the euphoria reported by users. The specialist also noted that this is physically dangerous.
Jenkem Myth or Reality: Jenkem Use in America
Back in 2007, the Sheriff’s Department of Collier County, Florida issued an internal bulletin about Jenkem after finding a blog forum post, which included photos making and using Jenkem. After the bulletin went out, the original poster admitted that it was a hoax. About a month later, the United States Drug Enforcement Agency said they could not confirm any reports of Jenkem use.
Jenkem Myth: Further Findings
Snopes.com first classified stories of American use of Jenkem as “undetermined,” but soon after found such claims to be false, with its conclusion being that in fact, the Jenkem myth is just that – an urban legend in America, at least. The site About.com also found that Jenkem reports were based upon unreliable Internet research. And as a tongue-in-cheek response, the site The Smoking Gun stated that the Collier county bulletin on the Jenkem myth as reality may be full of shit.” And yet another drug research site called Erowid stated that the Jenkem claims which had been circulating in the American media were the strange result of a hoax.
So, is Jenkem Myth or Reality?
It seems that Jenkem use is a sad reality in some underdeveloped parts of the world, namely some African regions. Luckily, Jenkem is not a trend that has caught on here in the U.S.