Okay, Who’s Huffing Vicks VapoRub?

From the back end of this blog. What are you people doing out there? Credit: DJ Kroll

One of the fun things about having a blog is the traffic analytics feature on the dashboard of WordPress (although I really miss the features of SiteMeter that don't run on WordPress because it doesn't accept JavaScript. But I digress.) Besides the addictive nature of looking at one's traffic numbers, I always find it interesting to look at the search terms that bring people to our humble little corner of CENtral Science. I became hooked on this way back when I started the original version of Terra Sig on Blogger: in February 2006, I had an unusual spike in traffic originating from the UK via the search term "terra sigillata." So, I posted this and learned this. Usually, search term hits tell me that something has come up in the news. But, alas, I cannot find anything recent that would account for Vicks VapoRub to elicit much searching. Perhaps telling is that all 27 searches came via a misspelled search for "vicks vapor rub."

North Carolina historical marker in Greensboro. Credit: DJ Kroll

(By the way, the search term brought folks here to read this post I wrote on Vicks VapoRub after a 2011 PR snafu with journalists like Ivan Oransky at Reuters Health. I ended up writing a bit more about the North Carolina pharmacy history that brought the world this lovely concoction.) I do know that misguided youth will huff volatile chemicals for the acute high one might get. Vicks is most commonly used to enhance the experience of MDMA (ecstasy) - I've seen kids at raves wearing N95 facemasks inside which they have smeared the VapoRub. So, what's with you people wanting to know about Vicks VapoRub?

Author: David Kroll

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  1. Someone’s high and mistaking VapoRub for a Vicks Inhaler, mistaking the Vicks Inhaler for the related Benzedrex, and possibly the Benzedrex for the unavailable Benzedrine.

    They’re wanting Propylhexedrine (250mg apiece), not l-meethamphetamine (50mg apieces).

    They’re using it to imitate the effects of straight stimulants with little or no serotonergic activity, such as amphetamine and methamphetamine, not MDMA.

    It is generally considered an inferior “high” than its scheduled relatives, with a worse crash, awful taste, and the production of nasuea if aadministered orally,

    (For perspective, propylhexedrine is the equivalent of methamphetamine in which the benzene ring is fully reduced to a cyclohexane ring. That’s even how it is commercially produced.)

    It is being sold in fewer and fewer stores and locales due, I can only suppose, to abuse potential. The totally dysphoric l-methamphetamine, which is not centrally active or euphoric, is replacing it in commercial preparations.

    Someone’s apparently more worried about getting high than doing their homework.

    • Hi Daniel, you’re right about the Vicks Inhaler but VapoRub is a separate problem. I can’t speak to the actual sensory experience but the use of VapoRub in N95 masks while kids were doing MDMA at raves was pretty common in the late 90s.

      I just checked in our CVS and they’re pretty well stocked with two brands of inhalers with l-methamphetamine – one has it spelled as levmetamfetamine, perhaps to discourage folks from thinking it’s at all related to meth.

  2. The reason I went searching is because I had a horrible sinus/chest cold a few weeks ago and could not find Vick’s Vapor Rub, or the inhaler…ANYWHERE???

    The only logical explanation I could come up with is that kids are doing something with it to gain a lame high..i.e. huffing, cooking, etc.

    I just want the product back on the shelves for when I do need it 🙂


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