Cocaine and other illicit substances have long-fueled the European nightlife scene, but now, thanks to a handful of events throughout the region, club kids are beginning to give the term “nose candy” a more literal meaning. There are certain images that come to mind when you hear a sentence that includes the words “powder” and “clubbing.” Almost as a rule, those images have nothing to do with chocolate but clubbers are turning to a new high to sweeten their party experience – chocolate. A new craze of snorting lines of cocoa is sweeping through Europe’s clubs, with dedicated events now offering it in place of alcohol and drugs like cocaine and ecstasy. At one monthly party in Berlin, ravers keep dancing until dawn just from the buzz of raw chocolate taken in drink, pill or powdered form.
Let’s get the medical and scientific views on this first. The first users of cacao (the original name for cocoa) were the Mayans and Aztecs, who consumed it unsweetened during rituals to help achieve a state of euphoria (you know something was happening because they kept it from women and children). They didn’t know then that cacao contains endorphins which trigger the brain’s pleasure responses and antioxidants which increase blood flow to the brain and muscles. A recent study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition says its magnesium can relax muscles and other ingredients can improve thinking (other than thinking about romance or where to get more candy). Does this mean that cacao snorters are actually getting high? And what kind of high is it?
Alchemy & Eros, a trendy club in Berlin, Germany, holds what it calls a “monthly cacao-fuelled dance party” where clubbers imbibe in powdered, liquid or pill-form cacao that club employee Ruby May says gives them “natural high vibes” that “amplify” their experience like a “smooth, sensual hug in a cup.”
It first provides a rush of endorphins into your bloodstream which can fuel feelings of euphoria, especially when coupled with dance music. The chocolate also contains high amounts of magnesium which relaxes your muscles. A recent study by London’s Kingston University on cyclists also found that chocolate can make you go faster and further. It is thought that epicatechin, a plant chemical particularly abundant in dark chocolate, gives the body a boost by widening the blood vessels. This speeds oxygen supply to the muscles, allowing them to make the most of the precious fuel.
The effectiveness of cacao as a psychological elevator hasn’t been established, though chocolate, in general, is ingrained in modern culture as “sinfully delicious”, and often compared to the pleasures of sex. In its pure form, one could expect the experience to be that much more intense. Take a look at kids after trick-or-treating, and you know chocolate might be wild after all.
The chemistry behind cacao’s buzz is that it contains endorphins as well as tyrosine. Tyrosine is a precursor to dopamine, which fuels the body’s pleasure/reward system. The dopamine receptors in our brains are also the same system that opioid-related drugs, including heroin and Oxycontin, react with for their intoxicating and addictive properties.
Both dopamine and endorphins produce pleasure, so the reported effects of chocolate powder sniffing causing euphoria are not without merit, or science to back them up. While the practice hasn’t been scientifically researched for safety, “snocolate” as it is now being referred to certainly isn’t cocaine or heroin, and as widely accepted as chocolate is in modern culture, it isn’t likely to go away anytime soon.
Its use in clubs appears to be booming to such an extent a chef has invented a £35 device so you can conveniently snort the powder on the go. Still, the idea of getting lit off chocolate isn’t anything new. In 2007, Belgian chocolatier Dominique Persoone created a device called the “Chocolate Shooter” that allows users to snort cocoa powder. The contraption was created to help liven up a Rolling Stones party that year.. But the concept has taken off and been used by culinary innovators such as Heston Blumenthal at his restaurant The Fat Duck. Diners are given a special mix of Dominican Republic or Peruvian cocoa powder mixed with raspberry, ginger and mint to snort. But this practise has now migrated from the dinner table to the dance floor as clubbers increasingly seek out healthy and legal ways of escaping from the rigours of life. Morning Gloryville, a rave company that organises dance parties from London to New York, stocks Lucid’s bar with cacao drinks and pills. Lucid organiser Ruby May says she mixes 18lbs of cocoa for the night with honey, agave syrup and cinnamon to give users an even more aromatic experience.
Of course, despite the clean-living vibes, there are naysayers. In particular, Persoone’s snorting method gets less than rave reviews from a few health care professionals.
“Snorting chocolate powder is not safe, because the powder is perceived by the nose as a foreign toxic substance,” Dr. Jordan Josephson told, explaining that users can damage delicate parts of the nose. “Putting any foreign bodies [in the nasal cavity]—including smoke, cocaine and/or chocolate powder—is not safe and is not advised.”
U.S. News contacted the offices of several members of Congress who have been leaders against relaxing marijuana prohibition laws and in favor of restricting tobacco products, but they were unable or uninterested in commenting on whether marketing restrictions are needed for chocolate powder.
For all the talk of chocolate as a drug, however, the rave reviews may amount to a placebo effect. A leading scientist affiliated with the Mars candy company, Dr. Catherine Kwik-Uribe, told the publication the compounds anandamide and phenylethylamine exist in amounts too small in cacao to directly influence mood.
Despite headlines proclaiming cocoa powder the hot new club thing, it’s probably a more than safe bet it won’t be making other party drugs obsolete anytime soon. Or ever. Still, it is having a moment.