Reality alteration in my childhood was a strange concept. Of course the first stage had to be spinning around in circles (still popular at amusement parks.)
The earliest I was aware of methods of reality alteration (not counting tobacco or alcohol) was in the 4th grade when some of the 'bad' kids started to bring small vials of cinnamon oil to school, with a toothpicks as an applicator/pacifier. This went on behind our teacher's back for about a week - she must have not had a sense of smell! The cinnamon oil, if splashed on your face, would cause a bright red blotch to appear. It wasn't really a high, just sort of a 'supercandy' rush of flavor. Peppermint oil had a few fans too.
A few years later, the pass-out trick became popular. The subject would hyperventilate while on hands and knees, then stand up quickly while an assistant would grasp him by the middle and lift. The object was to black out from lack of oxygen. It sort of worked - you never knew if someone was faking or not.
Junior high brought real dangers. Aspirin and Coca-cola was supposed to be a good way to get a 'buzz' but was probably a better way to get an ulcer. Cough syrup was big for a small crowd of abusers - it usually had about 20% alcohol and some brands even had codeine in them! Those kids thought they were mellow, but they were really just drowsy. Ditto for the glue sniffers. That one turned into a real problem, as all sorts of 'huffing' was experimented with.
In senior high, we were still quite naive. Yes, we did try to smoke banana peels. In tenth grade the Narcotics Officer came to school with a case of 'samples' of illegal drugs. (Was he recruiting future 'clients'?) It still didn't make much of an impression. Our senior year started right after the 'summer of love' in San Francisco. Real drugs began to trickle in, but in the next three years would see it become a flood.
Now, there are new threats (or opportunities, depending on your point of view.) But the kid's stuff we did seems like a whole different world.
Summer Re-run Series
First published March 8, 2005