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Q: I've been seeing reports lately of people doing a new drug called "Jenkem". Supposedly, it involves fermenting human fecal material and urine, and then capturing the gas from said fermentation, and inhaling it. From what I can tell, it's pretty much unsubstantiated, and has all the hallmarks of another media drug scare. Please tell me people aren't actually doing this...

A: Dr. Z,

The jenkem stories that have been circulating in the U.S. media are almost certainly the strange result of a hoax. We have seen no credible evidence that anyone in the United States, Canada, or Europe inhales sewage gas from bottled human or animal waste (which would primarily be methane) in order to get psychoactive effects. There is pretty good documentation that this story is simply a hoax/misunderstanding.



When we first saw news coverage about jenkem we laughed at the silliness of the story and at the stupidity of the mainstream news media. We've been amazed to watch how quickly the idea has spread and at the level of prurient interest people have in the story.



The origination of the story was several reports about kids in Zambia inhaling the gasses put off by human waste as an alternative to sniffing glue. We have no knowledge about the accuracy of these reports, but it's certainly possible the kids in Zambia thought it would be funny to make up a story for adult aid workers that they were inhaling sewer gas to get high. And while it is potentially believable that folks in the slums of Africa might resort to such a thing, it stretches the bounds of credulity to believe, without solid documentation, that this is done in the U.S.



It seems vaguely possible that a handful of extremely experimental people in developed countries have tried this process, but the one online report of use that is cited by most of the media stories turned out to have been faked by the author who clearly also thought the idea was ludicrous. The story was posted to a public forum and included photos of a bottle supposedly containing human excrement. He later retracted his story, saying he had faked both it and the photos.



The story spread as a sheriff's department in Collier County Florida issued an internal warning bulletin, including the photos from the faked forum report. From there, it has was picked up by a plethora of media outlets across the U.S., almost always reported on as a serious and dangerous new drug threat. Please.



This seems to be a prime example of people in online forums saying ridiculous, obviously false things and then being used as a primary data source by people who ought to know better. It is difficult to believe this has received as much attention as it has. Erowid had decided not to comment on this until we noticed we were receiving a large number of search hits on the term 'jenkem' in November 2007.



Without undeniably clear evidence that people are actually inhaling the gasses from human waste (outside of some performance art piece) we believe there is little reason to give this much attention: Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Unfortunately, this much media attention can actually confuse people into trying something stupid because they think other people are doing it.





Asked By : DrZ
Answered By : earth
Published Date : 11 / 24 / 2007
Last Edited Date : 11 / 24 / 2007
Question ID : 3113

Categories: [ Myths ] [ General ] [ Inhalants ]




Ask Erowid v1.7 - Jul, 2005

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