From the archive, originally posted by: [ spectre ]


Prisoners Breed Spiders for Venom High

Inmates in an Australian prison have been caught breeding deadly
redback spiders that they milked for venom to inject themselves for a
high, according to government records.

Four spiders – with venom that can kill children and the elderly with
a single painful bite – were found in Grafton maximum security prison
in New South Wales state on Feb. 15, documents released Tuesday by
state opposition lawmakers said.

Prison authorities suspect inmates found the spiders, which are common
in Australia, in the prison nursery. They bred the spiders in jars,
milked them of venom which they diluted with water before injecting,
opposition Liberal Party justice spokesman Andrew Humpherson said.

“It just shows how comfortable they are – actually accessing and in
this case breeding their own source of venom; their own source of
drugs,” Humpherson told reporters, in an attack on the Labor-led state
government’s law and order policies.

The Liberals accessed the state prison records under freedom of
information laws.

The records also showed that a 16-inch marijuana plant was found
growing in another prison in February.;year=1990;volume=36;issue=4;spage=233;epage=4;aulast=Pradhan

Snake venom habituation in heroin (brown sugar) addiction: (report of
two cases).

Pradhan PV, Shah LP, Ghodke PR, Nayak PR
Department of Psychiatry, Seth G.S. Medical College, Parel, Bombay,

Correspondence Address:
Department of Psychiatry, Seth G.S. Medical College, Parel, Bombay,

How to cite this article:
Pradhan PV, Shah LP, Ghodke PR, Nayak PR. Snake venom habituation in
heroin (brown sugar) addiction: (report of two cases). J Postgrad Med

How to cite this URL:
Pradhan PV, Shah LP, Ghodke PR, Nayak PR. Snake venom habituation in
heroin (brown sugar) addiction: (report of two cases). J Postgrad Med
[serial online] 1990 [cited 2007 May 16];36:233-4. Available from:

::   Introduction

Occasionally it is reported in newspapers that some persons withstand
poisonous snake bites, though taking these bites for intoxication is
not known. To best of our knowledge no snake venom addiction has been
reported in world literature. We have come across two cases in which
snake venom intoxication as a habit was associated with addiction to
heroin, cannabis and mandrax (methaqualone and diphenhydramine).

::   Case reports

Case No. 1: 35-year-old, male married, front lower socio-economic
class, working in a gambling den for last 10 years was admitted for
treatment of heroin withdrawal syndrome. Patient started taking snake
bites since 1976 till hospitalization. On interrogation the patient
mentioned that he started taking charas at the age 15 years mainly
because of peer pressure. However, he became addicted to heroin and
mandrax at a later stage of life and continued with the same till
hospital admission. During this stage, snake bite habituation was
developed out of curiosity. Initially he used to take snake bite on
great toe once in a week, the frequency was then increased to two-
three times a week. Everyday intake was not possible because of the
cost -Rs 50 per bite. According to him he used to get sleep for 18-20
hours after the bite, which gradually reduced over period of few
months to 12-14 hours.

The bite on tongue produced quick effect. On interrogation regarding
the snake bite business, it was told that people from ethnic community
give this bite only to those people who are known to them. This is
being practised in certain areas of South Bombay. The visitors are at
the risk of death. The people who come here for snake bites, are
mainly from higher socio-economic class and are of certain religious
groups. There are at least two to three people doing this business in
that area.

Snakes used are cobra or green coloured snakes found on trees. The
bites are generally taken on the sole or on tongue if it is a small
snake. In the hospital the patient had severe withdrawal symptoms but
however he did not show any craving for snake bite. On follow-up for 1
month the patient was found to be free of all addictions.

Case No. 2: A 33-year-old, male patient was married and admitted for
detoxification for charas and heroin addiction. Patient started
gambling while at school at the age of 14 and later started abusing
drugs like charas, alcohol and ganja. In 1975 patient developed habit
of taking snake bites. The locations he visited were in South Bombay.
Beside these he also had snake bite in Goa and Calcutta. The patient
was taking these bites to get an “extra kick”. At each place called
snake-den, various types of snakes in different sizes and colours were
kept. According to the type of snake bite they were graded into three
categories like mild, moderate and severe form of intoxication. A
sharp tap with blunt instrument was given on snake’s head. On tapping,
snake used to bite on the site. This was felt as a pricking sensation
locally, resembling prick of intra-muscular injection lasting for
10-40 seconds. After each bite no significant skin inflammation used
to occur. The patient experienced grandiosity, a sense of well-being
and happiness after each bite. At times he used to lie down quietly on
bed for hours or on certain occasions he used to keep moving in the
room. He did not experience any hallucinations, remained well
oriented. No withdrawal symptoms for snake venom were noticed. He
discontinued this habit as he feared that he may, by chance, die.

::   Discussion

It is known and reported in literature that snake venom liberates
pharmacologically active substances in the body such as 5-
hydroxytryptamine, bradykinin, slow-reacting substances,
prostaglandins and lysophosphatides.[1] It has been mentioned that
drowsiness is one of the cardinal symptoms of elapid snake bite,
particularly cobra snake bite. It is a commonly recorded symptom even
in early Australian and Indian snake bite literature.

The present cases are reported here to make the readers aware of this
type of habituation, which is still being practised in big cities.
However, both the patients did not show any withdrawal symptoms,
indicating that they were not addicted. As the snake bite was not
taken daily, mostly because of high cost and likely lethality,
addiction to it could not develop. However one patient showed
tolerance to its effect. It is noteworthy that both the patients
preferred it to heroin. We feel that it is possible to collect the
snake venom from such places with the help of local community social

Analysis of its pharmacologically active substances, especially those
responsible for sedative euphoriant and intoxicating substances could
therefore be a challenging investigation for the Pharmacology
Departments. We feel that snake venom may contain substances, which
reduce mental anguish without addiction.

::   Acknowledgment

We thank Dr. GB Parulkar, Dean, King Edward Memorial Hospital and Seth
GS Medical College for permitting us to use the hospital data. We also
thank Director and staff of Haffkine Institute for Training, Research
& Testing, Mumbai for providing us the relevant literature.

::   References

1. Campbell CH. Symptomatology, pathology and treatment of bites of
elapid snakes. In: “Snake venoms-Handbook of Experimental
Pharmacology”. Vol. 52. YC Chen, Springer-Verlag, editor. Berlin:
Heidelberg: 1979, pp 898-977.   Back to cited text no. 1

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