Smoked out ants!

 New addiction smoking antsYoung men in United Arab Emirates have jumped on a bizarre, and weirdly “green” addiction, passing on cigarettes and sheesha to smoking dead ants to get high.

They crush local black ants (Pachycondyla sennaarensis) and blend the crumbs in tobacco, drop them into a medhwak (smoking pipe) or sprinkle them on regular smokes before lighting up, according to Gulf News. Health officials say the consequences could be far more harmful than smoking marijuana or hashish.

In certain neighborhoods of Sharjah and Dubai, teens can be found searching alleys and parking lots for the native red ants, called samsun. The fumes from the burnt insect produce visual and auditory hallucinations like those induced by marijuana.

“Samsun ants contain highly concentrated formic acid which is used by the insect to ward off predators and kill prey. When heated the formic acid produces toxic gases. They are not addictive but inhaling them can cause pulmonary fibrosis and renal failure besides other conditions including irreversible nervous system damage,” a Dubai-based pulmonologist told Gulf News.

When they bite, formic acid causes necrosis or deadening of the tissues. Mohammed al Ali, 27, believes the trend started with labourers from the subcontinent who roll the ants into their bhindis – pure tobacco cigarettes rolled up using a tobacco leaf. “It’s a social thing for Indian workers,” the Emirati told The National News. “Go to Satwa Square and they are sitting there smoking the ants they rolled up into their bhindis.

Dubai’s Tobacco Control committee said it was aware of the ant smoking fad, although they have yet to gauge how widespread the habit is among Arab teens. “Until last year there would be just two of three boys, but now there are several groups,” a local Sharjah resident told the website.

“For some teens, the acid in the poison glands of ants smells like vinegar and they inhale its pungent fumes to get a kick. It’s very dangerous as it can cause lung and other diseases,” Dr. Wedad Al Maidoor, Head of the National Tobacco Control Committee, Ministry of Health, told Gulf News. Dr. Reza Khan, wildlife specialist at Dubai Municipality, said a bite by the ant can be fatal for people with allergies if they are not immediately treated in a hospital.

The fad may have started in labor camps where impoverished guest workers smoke ant-filled beedis (hand-rolled cigarettes made of tendu leaves) as a cheap alternative to illegal drugs.

Smoking ants can cause lung diseases and kidney failure, and in some cases, it can also cause sudden death.

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8 thoughts on “Smoked out ants!”

  1. Phil says:

    Formic acid (also called methanoic acid) is the simplest carboxylic acid. Its chemical formula is HCOOH or HCO2H. It is an important intermediate in chemical synthesis and occurs naturally, most notably in ant venom.

  2. Phil says:

    Are they not smoking Formic acid produced by ants.
    That can’t be good.

  3. Charles Waller says:

    I have found your site to be an excellent source of news not normally covered by US media, but the comment below from this article greatly affected my opinion of your content in a negative manner.
    ” The fumes from the burnt insect produce visual and auditory hallucinations like those induced by marijuana.”

    I have consumed cannabis for over 40 years, including some of the highest THC content cannabis known. I have also on occasion consumed the resin glands alone, after screening them from dried, cured cannabis. In my younger years, when good quality LSD, mescaline and psilocybin was readily available I also consumed them on occasion. Uncontaminated cannabis does not typically cause visual and auditory hallucinations. Furthermore, this statement from the article is also inaccurate:
    ” Health officials say the consequences could be far more harmful than smoking marijuana or hashish.”
    Excessive water intake is more harmful than smoking cannabis or hashish, when the hashish is not the traditional variety which is resin glands mixed with opium. Pure cannabis hash causes negligible harm, primarily bronchitis when smoked in more than moderate amounts. Many “over the counter” products are more harmful than cannabis, because moderate use of cannabis is not harmful – period. I would suggest reading about the long term pulmonary study done by Dr. Donald Tashkin at UCLA in California.
    I would have expected more from you, considering Israel is a world leader in medicinal cannabis research and has been for decades. From a Global Post article: ” An award-winning professor of medicinal chemistry and natural products at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Raphael Mechoulam is a trim gentleman who wears tweed jackets and silk scarves. He is no slacker. At 82, he still works full-time. ”
    I can only hope that the US starts catching up with the work being done in Israel, before large corporate interests here gain control of the evolving medical cannabis market, or it gets “pushed aside” as is occurring in Washington state currently.
    Please research the facts regarding cannabis. The facts have been ignored for decades here in the US. From The Report of the National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse – Marihuana: A Signal of Misunderstanding, Commissioned by President Richard M. Nixon, March, 1972, to the 1988 ruling by DEA Administrative Law Judge Francis Young against the DEA during the internal petition process – in which he ordered rescheduling of cannabis – to the 2003 awarding of patent #6630507 Cannabinoids as Anti-Oxidants & Neuro-Protectants to the US Dept. of Health & Human Services, the federal government here has steadfastly refused to remove cannabis from the Schedule 1 classification it was given”temporarily” in 1972, to protect the same vested interests which were originally responsible for cannabis prohibition. Cannabis is a beneficial plant used safely by human beings for 10,000 years for a wide range of purposes and products – including fiber, food, fuel, medicine and relaxants (mild intoxicants). There has never been a single human death in recorded history attributed directly or solely to use of cannabis. The seed oil and meal are extremely nutritious. The fiber is one of the strongest natural fibers known to humans, while the interior of the stalks is an excellent source of cellulose. Foliage is also useful as animal feed.
    Please research this subject, and restore my faith in your journalistic accuracy and integrity.Prohibition is harmful, cannabis is helpful for many chronic, intractable health conditions for which “modern medicine” offers little, if any hope. Cannabis provides enormous relief for me from the symptoms of fibromyalgia, without the dangerous side effects, toxicity and risk of kidney damage caused by prescrition pharmaceuticals which offer no remission of symptoms, but depend entirely on depressing the central nervous system and masking those symptoms. Cathy Jordan, in Florida, has survived Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis for decades thanks to cannabis. GW Pharmaceuticals is currently marketing Sativex in many countries, and is introducing Epidiolex currently – both are whole plant cannabis extract oil products. MS sufferers report enormous relief from pain and muscle spasticity with cannabis treatement, and many depend on it for continued functioning and remission of symptoms.
    Please learn the facts. They are readily available.

    1. Charles, we appreciate your comment and I have personally interviewed experts like Mechoulam on cannabis. I don’t see how one comparison to the hallucinogenic properties of cannabis, which are there, warrants further comment from our part. Let me know if I am wrong.

      1. Charles Waller says:

        ” The fumes from the burnt insect produce visual and auditory hallucinations like those induced by marijuana.”

        The wording of the sentence above leaves much to be desired. While some people have reported extreme visual and auditory disturbances, cannabis does not induce them in the vast majority of consumers. One might even say it is more likely the result of overactive imaginations than cannabis consumption. D9THC, by itself in large amounts can cause these disturbances in a larger number of people, but the statement above is inherently incorrect.

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