Why do drug addicts seek snake bites to get high?

A case study published in March 2011 of two addicts in India has uncovered a new way that addicts can get high: snakebites. But why do people subject themselves to a potentially deadly amount of venom? And what type of person would resort to this extreme? More on snake bites and addiction here.

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Snake venom as a psychoactive substance

A team of researchers from Rachi, India recently released a report on two men who occasionally seek snake bites for their euphoric effect. It seems that a snake bite from certain types of snakes (elapids and hydrophilids) can produce a toxic effect on nerve tissue and can cause symptoms that appeal to drug addicts and alcoholics. These symptoms include:

  • analgesic effect
  • blurred vision
  • dizziness
  • euphoric effect
  • lethargy
  • muscular paralysis

But what is most interesting about these scientist’s study is their hypothesis that the neural pathways that govern snake bites may be similar to those that govern addiction. In other words, the reward pathways in the brains of substance abusers and drug addicts (the mesolimbic dopamine system) is still thought to be inherently different than most people.

Who gets high on snake bites

Certain types of addicts share certain personality traits and seem to have been born with high levels of impulsiveness and thrill seeking. This type of behavior is especially seen in poly-substance users or abusers. And the researchers identified a few predisposing factors for such novel and dangerous behavior. In fact, people who ARE EXCITED BY the chance of receiving a potentially lethal snake bite share are few things in common. Predisposing factors for snake bite seekers include:

1. A tendency to have already used a wide range of substances.

2. A tendency to seek high sensation experiences as a result of personality traits (openness, extraversion and neuroticism).

3. A social and religious background which honors and worships snakes in mythology.

Why seek snake bites for recreational purposes?

To be frank, people want to be bitten by a snake to get high. The euphoric effect or heightened arousal and sense of well-being drive addicts to do many things that are considered anti-social. Snake bites walk the edge of what is known, and this type of uncertainty can appeal to a person who is looking for a novel effect and experience.

Why do addicts seek snake bites to get high?

So, to answer the question…addicts seek snake bites to get high because they can. The behavior may seem extreme but is really not too different than other susbstance use or seeking behavior. Taking risks to get high is a benchmark of addiction. So it comes as no surprise that true addicts will seek more and more extreme ways for a psychoactive experience.

What do you think of snake bites for effect? Have you heard of this or considered trying it out? Is seeking the help of a snake charmer comparable to any other substance seeking behavior? Do you know of even more extreme ways that people chase the dragon? Your comments and feedback are welcomed here.

Reference source: “Snake Bite as a Novel Form of Substance Abuse: Personality Profiles and Cultural Perspectives” Substance Abuse, Volume 32, Issue 1 January 2011
About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.
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