Scorpion Smoking – the Latest Pakistani Craze?

A grimly fascinating report in Pakistan's Dawn newspaper April 15 features an interview with an aging scorpion-venom addict in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, near the border with Afghanistan. Sohbat Khan, 74, says he has been smoking scorpions to get high off the venom since the '60s, and only recently managed to kick the habit—by switching to opium.

"Drugs are beaten by other drugs," he sadly told a reporter, speaking in his native Pashto. The stuff appears be highly addictive, and when Khan could not find scorpions in his village, he would travel to Peshawar, the regional capital, to buy them in the market. The piece does not make clear if the scorpion trade is officially tolerated by authorities. 

But the preparation method is described. A dead scorpion is first dried in the sun or roasted on a hot coal. Often the poor critters seem to be roasted alive. “I would inhale the smoke coming out of the fire,” Khan said. Apparently the whole arachnid is inhaled, although the venom is concentrated in the tail. The "high" (if we may so call it) lasts for almost 10 hours, and the first six are said to be extremely painful, as the body adjusts to the venom. Those last four must be pretty darn good, eh? "Everything appears like it is dancing," Khan said. "The roads, the vehicles, everything in front of me." (Is he actually driving on this stuff?)

Although an elderly user was featured, the habit is said to be catching on among the region's youth. Some mix the roasted scorpion tail with hashish and tobacco to smoke it in a cigarette. Khan seemed to prefer his scorpion venom straight, smoking the roasted remains in a nacha, or small hash pipe.  

A 2012 post on the Narco Polo blog cites a discussion of scorpion-smoking in the book Drugs in Afghanistan: Opium, Outlaws and Scorpion Tales by David Macdonald, a veteran advisor for the UN drug control program in Kabul. Macdonald writes that the scorpion habit is widespread in Afghanistan and India as well as Pakistan—and suggests that use may be growing due to enforcement efforts against more traditional mind-altering substances. One police official in India's northwestern city of Bharuch told him: "Because of our successful drives against the sellers and addicts of alcohol, opium, cough syrup, and heroin in urban areas, young people are flocking on the highways to try the new craze of scorpion stings."

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