'Jenkem': Stay Alert or Call It a Hoax?

Cops are on the lookout for a feces-based drug -- only no one has ever seen it.

ByABC News
November 7, 2007, 4:22 PM

Nov. 7, 2007 — -- Are kids in Florida inhaling the fumes of their own feces to get high?

Police in Naples, Fla., are on the lookout for users of "jenkem," a homemade drug created by allowing human urine and feces to ferment in a bottle with a balloon covering the opening. Users inhale the released methane gas from the balloon to get a "euphoric high similar to ingesting cocaine, but with strong hallucinations of times past," according to a Collier County Sheriff's Office bulletin.

The downside: "Subjects who used the jenkem disliked the taste of sewage in their mouth and the fact that the taste continued for several days."

Sounds too gross to be true, right? Well, maybe.

Jenkem is real. If you're down and out and looking for kicks in Lusaka, Zambia, the BBC reported in 1995 that street children gather at the city's sewage ponds to brew the drug.

But according to the police in Florida, who first issued the bulletin at the end of September, and officials at the Drug Enforcement Agency in Washington, no reports of the foulmouthed inhalant have been confirmed in the United States.

"We have had no confirmed cases," said Jamie Mosbach, a spokesperson for the sheriff's office. "It came through an anonymous tip after someone saw something on the Internet and heard something about it from their child at a local high school. We just thought we'd inform our deputies in case they saw something."

What about jenkem use in other parts of the country? "We haven't seen it yet," said Garrison Courtney, a spokesman for the DEA.

"It is in Africa, we know that… We've heard rumors and speculation about it here, but part of looking for trends is listening first for speculation. It is something we want to keep on top of. The same sort of thing happened when we first heard of kids huffing freon or whippets [nitrous oxide, often found in whipped cream canisters]," he said.

Mosbach summed up the challenge police often face when tipped off to something they've never heard of: "We don't know if it's real or a hoax."