Monday, November 19, 2007

Jenkem, or: The Kid Who Huffed Poop Gas

Oh my god, I can't believe this.

Some excerpts:
Jenkem (also jekem) is a narcotic recreational drug composed of noxious gas formed from fermented human sewage...The raw materials are plentiful and freely available in the form of fecal matter from the open sewers of Lusaka. This is then fermented in plastic bottles and the fumes are inhaled. John C. Zulu, director of the Ministry of Sport, Youth and Child Development in Zambia informs in November 2007 that Jenkem usage is less common than glue-sniffing and, "Initially, they used to get it from the sewer, but they make it anywhere [...] They say it keeps them warm and makes them fearless."
So disgusting.
The effects of Jenkem inhalation last for around an hour and consist of auditory and visual hallucinations. A fifth-grader in Lusaka said of Jenkem to an IPS reporter... in 1995, "Old man, this is more potent than cannabis." In a BBC report four years later, a 16-year-old boy described his preference for jenkem over other inhalants, "With glue, I just hear voices in my head. But with Jenkem, I see visions. I see my mother who is dead and I forget about the problems in my life."

"Human excreta is scooped up from the edges of the sewer ponds in old cans and containers which are covered with a polyethylene bag and left to stew or ferment for a week." In the BBC 1999 article the process is described as, "...the dark brown sludge, gathering up fistfuls and stuffing it into small plastic bottles. They tap the bottles on the ground, taking care to leave enough room for methane to form at the top."

It has been noted that Jenkem usage will leave a taste of sewage in the mouth lasting for several days.
I'm gonna barf.

Anyway, apparently the American media picked up on this and people thought it was taking off here. An amazing cautionary bulletin, here.

Apparently though, it's not actually a problem here, though as far as I can tell it's a real phenomenon in Africa. The creator of the hoax comes clean:
Internet pundits were quick to jump on the [sheriff's] intelligence briefing, noting that the photos and descriptions of the high jenkem produced came from "Pickwick," a contributor to the Web site, who later admitted his "use" of jenkem was faked using flour, water, beer, and Nutella.

"I never inhaled any poop gas and I never got high off it," he wrote on Sept. 24. "I have deleted the pictures, hopefully no weirdo saved them to his computer. I just don't want people to ever recognize me as the kid who huffed poop gas."

Perhaps I shouldn't laugh, though. I mean, sure, "huffing poop gas," that's funny. But how awful would these kids' lives have to be, where a brief hallucinatory escape from reality is worth days of the lingering taste of raw sewage in your mouth?

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