CHICAGO, Dec. 17 (UPI) -- Teenagers are using common holiday baking ingredients -- cinnamon, nutmeg and even marshmallows -- to get a cheap thrill or a high, a U.S. toxicologist says.
Dr. Christina Hantsch, a toxicologist in the Department of Emergency Medicine at Loyola University Health System near Chicago, said the hospital recently treated a dozen pre-teen children in its emergency room.
"A group of 9-year-olds were trying to do the Cinnamon Challenge," Hantsch, a former medical director of Illinois Poison Control, said in a statement. "One girl had seen the videos on the Internet and wanted to try it with her friends."
Hundreds of videos and postings on the Internet have made it a social media sensation, Hantsch said.
The Cinnamon Challenge involves trying to swallow 1 tablespoon of ground cinnamon without water.
"The dry, loose cinnamon triggers a violent coughing effect and also a burning sensation that actually can lead to breathing and choking hazards," Hantsch warned. .
In the first three months of 2012, poison centers received 139 calls concerning this spice hazard, Hantsch said.
"In Chubby Bunny, you stuff as many marshmallows in your mouth as possible and then try to say the words Chubby Bunny," Hantsch explained. "Two children have actually choked to death attempting this game so it is not to be taken lightly."
Meanwhile, ground nutmeg has been snorted, smoked and eaten in large quantities to produce a marijuana-like high.
"Nutmeg contains myristicin which is a hallucinogenic, like LSD," the toxicologist said.
Other common household products that are also being abused are hand sanitizer, aerosol whipped cream, aerosol cooking spray, ink markers and glue, Hantsch added.