Parents warned children are raiding kitchen cupboards in attempt to create 'legal highs'
Children as young as nine experimenting with kitchen cupboard essentials such as cinnamon and nutmeg to try and create 'drug-like effects' Dozens of children treated in emergency rooms after trying to swallow cinnamon, while two choked to death on marshmallows'Seemingly silly games can have sinister effects,' Chicago doctors warn
19:06 GMT, 19 December 2012
Parents have been warned to watch their kitchen cupboards, after a spate of hospital admissions of children pursuing 'legal highs.'
Researchers said youngsters were downing cinnamon, snorting nutmeg and even experimenting with marshmallows to try and create a drug-like effect.
Dr Christina Hantsch, from Loyola University Hospital in Chicago, felt compelled to speak out after a dozen nine-year-olds were treated in emergency departments.
A teenage girl about to attempt the 'Cinnamon Challenge,' which was posted on Youtube. Doctors have warned it could cause choking
They had been attempting to perform an internet craze known as the 'Cinnamon Challenge', which involves trying to swallow one tablespoon of ground cinnamon without water.
'One girl had seen videos on the Internet and wanted to try it with her friends,' Dr Hantsch said.
'The dry, loose cinnamon triggers a violent coughing effect and also a burning sensation that actually can lead to breathing and choking hazards.'
In 2011, poison centres received 51 calls about teen exposure to cinnamon. In just the first three months of 2012, they had received 139 calls.
The American Association of Poison Control Centers reports that of those, 122 were classified as intentional misuse or abuse and 30 callers required medical evaluation.
'The envelope is always being pushed to create something new that will get attention, potentially create a drug-like effect and can pass under the radar of law enforcers,' Dr Hantsch said.
Parents have been warned to keep an eye on their kitchen cupboards as children try out dangerous games they find online
She added that she was concerned what was once horseplay by older teenagers is now being copied by younger children.
'They have easy access to ingredients like cinnamon and marshmallows and think it is cool to do what their older peers are doing,' Dr Hantsch said.
Another 'game' involving marshmallows continues to attract followers.
'Two children have actually choked to death attempting this game, so it is not to be taken lightly,' Dr Hantsch said.
Ground nutmeg has been snorted, smoked and eaten in large quantities in an attempt to produce a drug-like high.
Other common household products that are also being abused are hand sanitiser, ink markers and glue.
Dr Hantsch said: 'Seemingly silly games can have sinister effects and the holidays are the worst time for this to happen.
'Kids have more free time, greater access to the Internet and more opportunities to get together during vacations. And at Christmas, the kitchen pantry is loaded for holiday baking.
'Adults are wise to keep an eye on their children to make sure they are using the ingredients for their proper use.'