Reports of wasp spray abuse, or “shock dope” (“Synthetic Drug”, 2018) have recently surfaced in Tennessee, or re- emerged as the practice has been around for over a decade. It involves a simple process (although dangerous as you can turn your vehicle into a flamethrower). The recipe includes an automotive (SLI) battery, can of insecticide (pyrethroid based), some chicken wire, or window screen. The wire is attached to the battery with jumper cables, or directly to the battery, in order to deliver a current, then aluminum foil is placed under it. The wire is sprayed with insecticide, which will crystallize. The battery is then disconnected, and the crystals are tapped off the wire which equals what is a fresh batch of cheap pyrethroid. In reality, it is often mixed with meth as distributors (“dealers”) can pass it off as a cheap substitute for the pure form of methamphetamine. The crystals are injected, snorted, or smoked.
The theory behind the insecticide is there is no narcotic component (in the absence of a combination illegal recreational substance), but your neurological functions are altered e.g. “loopy”. Pyrethroids are known to cause hyperexcitation by targeting sodium channels which are kept open for unusually long periods of time, which may account for the rush with exposure. Mixed with meth, the effects are more pronounced.
The toxicity associated with pyrethroids include: headache, upper and lower airway irritation, chest pain. Parenteral use can cause a local erythema, cellulitis, and vasculitis. Chronic use can lead to personality changes.
The care is supportive, regardless of the route of exposure: treat the symptoms.
Implications for practice
The main challenge is keeping up on what to watch for. Every time we turn around, there is a new method of substance abuse. Of a point of note, reports document these substances as being more attractive, especially to teens and young adults as they are “legal” and there is easy access.
Do not be surprised if you are asked for an id to buy bug spray.
KSN TV, Kansas City. Synthetic Drug a problem for Kansas [video file], (11/2018)
KXRB, Sioux Falls. Parents Beware of Wasp Spray[video file], Aug. 9, 2017, retrieved from: kxrb.com/parents-beware-of-wasp-spray-drug/
Pravesh,S. Manning,S, et. al. ( 2014). Pyrethroid as a substance of abuse. Case Reports in Psychiatry.2014, Article ID 169294,
WTVF, Lawrenceburg, TN. Man Found Naked In Tree After Doing 'Wasp Spray Dope' [video file](Jan.4, 2018), retrieved from: https://www.newschannel5.com/news/man-found-naked-in-tree-after-doing-w…
This Question was prepared by Jennifer C. Anderson, MSN, RN, CCRN, CPNP
Tennessee Poison Center
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