Users have reported feelings of déjà vu, hallucinatory smells, excitability and increased heart rate.
When ingested—either by applying to meth, or inhaled or injected after being heated on a metal sheet—the active ingredients in wasp spray can block nerve signals in the brain, leading to excitability, hallucinations and other physical responses similar to what is experienced after meth use.
The ingredients are also toxic, and can result in respiratory failure, paralysis, and in rare cases, death.
Boone County has been under siege from an economic downturn and drug dependency for several years. The loss of coal mining as the region’s primary source of income has devastated local incomes and businesses, which in turn has spurred an increase in drug use.
A 2018 report found that Boone County ranked highest in the United States for opioid-related costs, at nearly $9,000 per person.
Wasping On The Rise
According to Boone County delegate and former sheriff Rodney Miller, incidents of “wasping” are on the rise in the area, which appears to be the latest in a series of Midwestern and southern states where the practice has taken root. He said that some area residents appear to be using wasp spray as an alternative to meth. Stores in the area have also reported excessive sales of wasp spray.
“It’s not an illegal substance, but it’s a cheaper substance,” said Miller. “A five-dollar can of wasp spray in a local store sure beats the street price of drugs.”
The active ingredients in wasp spray and other pesticides are called pyrethroids, which are lethal to insects but block nerve signaling in humans. According to ABC News, users have reported feelings of déjà vu, hallucinatory smells, excitability and increased heart rate.
But pyrethroids are also dangerous and potentially deadly when ingested, especially when inhaled. Respiratory failure or paralysis have been reported after wasping, as well as headaches, nausea, tremors, erratic behavior and swelling and redness of the feet and hands. In rare cases involving people with pre-existing lung conditions like asthma, the use can be fatal.
Boone County State Police are working with local medical and poison control centers to determine the best treatment for the potential side effects of wasping, which they intend to then release to state and national agencies.
“It’s a cheap fix, and you don’t know what [the] overall result of usage of this is going to be,” said Sgt. Charles Sutphin. “From what we’re being told, if you use it, you know, you might use it once or twice and be fine, but the third time, when your body hits the allergic reaction, it can kill you.”