Legend has it that the Aztecs and the Mayans used cacao to elevate participants of rituals to a state of ecstasy. Fast forward to today: The latest fad among youth today is snorting chocolate; more specifically raw cacao, and it is dangerous to think it is harmless. Cacao is not illegal and may not deliver the same highs as say, heroin or cocaine. However, it does provide some sort of euphoria, plays into the psychological aspect of addiction through rituals, and allows very young kids to experiment with getting euphoric.
Cacao is the raw material for chocolate. It contains endorphins and tyrosine (a precursor to dopamine), which are capable of inducing feelings of pleasure. Consequently, snorting raw, powdered cacao could provide a feeling of euphoria. Powdered cacao is sold by most major retailers as a health supplement and is widely accessible.
The high derived from snorting raw cacao powder is not as powerful as derived from other illegal substances such as heroin or cocaine. However, the fact that individuals can obtain even mild euphoria greases the path to addiction and could lead to the use of more potent substances down the road. We all know how the sharp increase in prescriptions for opioid pain medications fanned the current opioid epidemic. Some individuals (especially with a genetic predisposition to addiction) may keep chasing the high and end up using more potent and highly addictive substances.
Snorting cacao started in Europe a couple of years ago and devices that allow an individual to snort the cacao powder effectively are being sold. Such devices run parallel to traditional drug paraphernalia such as bongs, needles, razor blades or pipes. Such devices do cultivate the psychological aspect of addiction where rituals are an important part of getting high.
Raw, powdered cacao, some with added ingredients (ginger, mint), are readily available and are within easy access of kids of all ages. In my experience treating individuals suffering from substance use disorders, I have found that experimentation with drugs (most commonly marijuana) usually starts at age 13. Now I fear that experimentation with cacao could start at a much younger age.
We are already grappling with a drug epidemic that is showing no signs of slowing down. Snorting cacao adds a new layer to this problem and will likely serve to intensify the problem we are facing. Consequently, urgent action is needed to stop the spread of this fad.