New Drug – JENKEM
On 09/19/07 Cpl. Disarro received and email from a concerned parent regarding a new drug called “Jenkem”. The parent advised their child learned about this drug through various conversations with several students at Palmetto Ridge High.
Jenkem originated in Africa and other third world countries by fermenting raw sewage to create a gas which is inhaled to achieve a high. Jenkem is now a popular drug in American Schools. Jenkem is a homemade substance which consists of fecal matter and urine. The fecal matter and urine are placed in a bottle or jar and covered most commonly with a balloon. The container is then placed in a sunny area for several hours or days until fermented. The contents of the container will separate and release a gas, which is captured in the balloon. Inhaling the gas is said to have a euphoric high similar to ingesting cocaine but with strong hallucinations of times past. [Snopes]
This doesn't sound like a good idea. But what shall we do about it? You can't pop people for poop possession, or piss-test people for piss sniffing. Should we launch a massive public education campaign warning kids that fermenting their excrement and breathing in the resulting fumes will get them wasted? That could backfire.
So I don't know what the solution is. For starters, we should wait to see if this is a real problem or just another hysterical response to a couple gross, though isolated, incidents. If there really is a rising trend of Florida youths sniffing fermented feces, maybe it's just an overreaction to the Miami DEA Chief's recent claim that marijuana will kill you.
Update: The rumor site Snopes, from which this story emerged, has updated the accuracy status of this rumor from "undetermined" to "false." It's unclear what prompted the change, but it looks like this whole story might just be a crock of...
Investigators said that environmental factors (e.g., a greater exposure to illegal drugs in their neighborhoods) as well as subjects' "proneness to deviancy" were the two characteristics that most commonly predicted substance abuse.
"This evidence supports what's known as the common liability model ... [which] states [that] the likelihood that someone will transition to the use of illegal drugs is determined not by the preceding use of a particular drug, but instead by the user's individual tendencies and environmental circumstances," investigators stated in a press release. They added, "The emphasis on the drugs themselves, rather than other, more important factors that shape a person's behavior, has been detrimental to drug policy and prevention programs."
No kidding. It's such a perfectly logical conclusion, it's hard to understand why anyone thought otherwise. Especially since one study after another has shown the exact same thing.
It shouldn't take 12 years of research by respected social scientists to tell us that trying one drug can't possibly have the psycho-pharmacological effect of making you want some different drug you've never tried before. Marijuana grows on trees. It's ubiquitous. That's why people try it first.
As for the "environmental factors" that actually are useful in predicting behavior, much thanks is owed to drug prohibition for creating a criminal subculture through which illicit drugs are widely available to young people. As a high school student, I had potential access to a far greater variety of drugs than I do now as professional drug policy reform activist. Alcohol was the one thing you couldn't get easily.
Inevitably, the "gateway theory" will not die a sudden death today. It will live on in the form of anecdotal accounts from marijuana "victims" whose progression into addiction will be taken out of context. It's a shame that so many people who are genuinely concerned about the drug problems facing America's youth nonetheless insist on misunderstanding basic facts about drug use.
Imagine the progress that could be achieved overnight if research such the Pittsburgh study were used to make policy.