If you went to a middle school like ours, chances are at some point the pimply kid sitting in the back row tried to convince you huffing magic markers and snorting Pixie Stix were a great, cost-effective way to get high. Unfortunately, those quasi-legal time killers can also be harmful to your health and, in some cases, deadly.

We asked Asylum's most-trusted physician, Dr. Ken Spaeth, to explain the effects of various low-cost trips that have spread regularly through detention halls. (Not all of them are harmful, some are just stupid.)


Huffing Glue
Apparently assembling the models of Correllian Cruisers isn't rewarding enough as glue huffing continues to cause death and injury every year. The glues used typically contain organic solvents (and not "organic" in the overpriced-fruit sense of the word). Many of these solvents are potentially cancer-causing and damaging to your bone marrow. Kidney and liver damage can occur also, as can damage to the parts of your brain that control movement.

Whippets
Commonly called laughing gas or, in geek speak, Nitrous Oxide (N2O), it's given by a dentist to make you forgive him for drilling your head. Also, used in whipped cream cans, there are serious health risks beyond a sugar rush. Inhalation can cause hypoxia, a low-oxygen state that if not of extremely short duration is bad for your brain, heart and life, and can even cause seizures or put you in a coma. Nitrous Oxide also depletes the body of B12, a vitamin needed for long-term health of blood cells, nerve cells and DNA .

Snorting Pixie Stix
Pixie sticks contain dextrose, citric acid, and artificial and natural flavorings. Unless bringing back childhood memories qualifies as hallucinogenic or harmful, Pixie Stix are pretty benign.

Smoking Banana Peels
This is a myth held over from the '60s, possibly started by your dad. Perpetuators will tell tales of a psychoactive substance called Banadine (sometimes Bananadine) found in banana peels. Asinine is more like it -- there is no such substance. On the upside, banana peels are reportedly good for shining leather shoes. (Seriously.)

Sudafed
According to Urban Dictionary, the over-the-counter decongestant makes you makes you feel like you're floating on a cloud. But Sudafed-Pseudoephedrine (the drug's full name) is a key ingredient in the production of methamphetamine aka meth, which commonly destroys lives. Taken regularly, Pseudoephedrine can damage your heart, brain and kidneys. You may have also heard of "Meth teeth."

Eating, snorting, smoking nutmeg
Oh nutmeg, you're in every kitchen and yet no one knows what to do with you. As you sat unnoticed lo these many years, rumors have surfaced that you're a drug. Some of nutmeg's elements, such as myristicin and elemicin, are thought to provide a meth-like or hallucinogenic state. Depending on the amount ingested, health effects range from psychosis, palpitations, stomach pain, difficulty urinating, and even death. Most effects resolve in a few days although the psychosis can persist in people who abuse regularly. In case you're wondering, amounts used in recipes are not anywhere near enough to turn banana bread into a magic carpet ride.

Cough Syrup
In large amounts, cough syrup's active ingredient Dextromethorphan DXM can induce a dissociative state. Commonly reported side effects include psychosis, palpitations, stomach pain, violent behavior, difficulty urinating and death. Abuse of DXM products can cause liver damage, seizures, coma, vomiting and abnormal heart rhythms. As a result, DXM is kept behind the counter in many pharmacies and requires ID to buy.

Huffing Dust-Off
Propellants -- compressed gases commonly used for clearing dust from computers -- are often riddled with questionable labeling. They don't really contain air at all, but actually volatile organic compounds. Death has occurred as a result of huffing such propellants. If done on a regular basis, huffing these can result in varying degrees of brain damage. (By the way, why are we buying things to blow dust for us? Good lord, we're lazy.)

Magic Markers
Maybe it's having "Magic" in the title that motivates huffers to suddenly want to doodle. Fortunately, although full product listings are hard to get hold of, most manufacturers claim these contain nothing harmful. However, permanent markers commonly contain organic solvents that if used regularly can cause permanent damage to your heart, liver, brain, as well as hearing and memory loss, and even immediate death.

Huffing Gasoline
Is it surprising this is a bad idea? Gasoline is made up of aliphatic hydrocarbons -- basically, prehistoric dead stuff. Not only does gasoline often contain cancer-causing chemicals, it can also significantly damage the nervous system. Long-term damage to the heart, nervous system and kidneys may occur.

Huffing White-Out
While texting can be addictive, it only causes tendinitis. Correction fluids pose potential health risks from huffing. Chemicals found in correction fluids vary greatly; often they contain organic compounds such as ethylene glycol, petroleum distillates or mineral spirits. Regular abuse can lead to damage to the liver, kidneys, and nervous system and even death, as a result of inadequate oxygen to the brain and heart.

Dr. Ken Spaeth is a Harvard-trained physician and a faculty member at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York. He is also co-author of "The Bioterrorism Sourcebook." You can e-mail him your questions at askdrken@aol.com.