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PESHAWAR: “I started scorpion smoking in the mid 60s,” recalls 74-year-old Sohbat Khan.

It was Ayub Khan’s era, and Sohbat was only 20 years old. He would frequent the famous Jalil Kabab house, which is how he met the vendor who sold scorpions worth Rs1 or Rs2 right next to the eatery. The men got their supply from Peshawar’s Matani area, which is rich in scorpions because of its insufferably hot weather.

Sohbat says he has quit smoking scorpions. His eyes are sunken from years of addiction, and his pale face and hollow cheeks betray a dependence on opium. “Nasha pa nasha khatmege,” he says, smiling— drugs are beaten by other drugs.

A dead scorpion is first dried in the sunlight or burnt on coal. The coal is kept on a traditional stove, and the scorpion is allowed to cook until it burns to death.

His addiction to opium doesn’t bother him as much; Sohbat says opium’s affects are far safer than scorpion smoking. He knows his body is too old to bear the high, but there are days he still feels the pull.

“Chars aw powder kho asi gup dai,” Sohbat says in way of explanation—“Hashish and heroin’s so-called relief is nothing in front of scorpion.”

Also read: Meth, the 'new heroin' in KP

Inhaling the fire

During his years of addiction, Sohbat remembers madly roaming around his house and village, hunting for scorpions. Often, when the need was too overwhelming and there was no scorpion in sight, he would make his way to Peshawar. "It’s a worst form of addiction," he says in Pashto.

The arrangements take up a lot of time and energy, explains Sohbat. A dead scorpion is first dried in the sunlight or burnt on coal. The coal is kept on a traditional stove, and the scorpion is allowed to cook until it burns to death.

“I would inhale the smoke coming out of the fire,” Sohbat says, although it is the tail that addicts really want—its poisonous venom makes for dangerous addiction.

In India, where the use is common in a few states, the method is quicker, and more expensive. People holding scorpions in their hands park themselves in specific spots, and addicts come to have a 'sting of pleasure'. They pay between 100 to 150 Indian rupees for each sting.

In KP, some people mix the burnt tail with hashish and tobacco to smoke it in a cigarette. Sohbat’s method varies— he would use a ‘nacha’, which is a small pipe used to inhale drugs.

The high lasts for almost 10 hours. The first six hours are more painful, as the body adjusts to the high. Slowly, Sohbat says, the feeling eases into enjoyment. “Everything appears like it is dancing,” he calls. “The roads, the vehicles, everything in front of me.”

More harmful than other drugs

Experts say that scorpion venom is dangerous for the human brain when inhaled. Among the 1,750 described species of scorpions, 25 are fatal to humans. The rest do not kill when they sting, but according to Dr Azaz Jamal, their venom is far more harmful than other drugs.

“Scorpion smoking causes short and long term memory loss,” says Jamal, who is a medical officer at the Khyber Teaching Hospital. The person addicted to scorpion smoking also develops sleeping and appetite disorders, and starts living in a constant state of delusion.

“Smoking causes hallucination, the state where person have perception of something which is not present,” he explains.

He goes on to explain that there is little research available on scorpion addiction because its users cannot be identified as easily. For one, scorpion smoking is practiced in secret places, and secondly, no data is yet available on an official level. The United Nation Drug’s office has not investigated the addiction in its reports.

Killing scorpions

The menace of scorpion smoking is gaining popularity in parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP). Although there are no exact statistics that reveal the users’ percentage, research has been carried out to find the prevalence of scorpion smoking addiction.

Azeemullah, a former service man at KP’s narcotics control department, who has traveled around the province for many years, has found addicts in the districts of Bannu, Kohat, Karak, Lower Dir, Upper Dir, Charsadda and Batkhela. He cannot cite numbers, but his results show that the drug is not a rare indulgence.

Azeem comments on the lack of laws for scorpion smoking in Pakistan. “We need laws in place to stop the killing of scorpions,” he says. Azeem adds that scorpions are used in medicines for diseases like cancer and AIDS. Unless their use is regulated, scorpion addiction poses a threat to the availability of scorpions for medical purposes.

Read next: How do you battle AIDS if no one talks about sex? KP's transgenders speak out

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Comments (63) Closed

Petrolhead Apr 15, 2016 04:54pm

Didn't know that there was a thing called 'scorpion smoking'. I'm flabbergasted. We, the humans, haven't spared anything under the Sun for our pleasure.

Harsh Apr 15, 2016 04:59pm

Disgusting. Glad no one does this in India.

Abdullah Apr 15, 2016 05:00pm

Never thought one could actually burn and smoke a scorpion and get a high out of it.

Harmony-1© Apr 15, 2016 05:02pm

As it says awareness and "lack of laws for scorpion smoking" is the issue but the government is busy with more important matters as revealed in Panama Leaks!

Harmony-1© Apr 15, 2016 05:03pm

@Harsh - Read it thoroughly...India is mentioned!

zeezoo Apr 15, 2016 05:06pm

@Harsh read the article once before posting comments, its far too common in indian districts compared to a specific outlawed province of Pakistan.

puppet Apr 15, 2016 05:17pm

@Harsh read the article, India has addicts that enjoy scorpian stings...its in the article.

FreeinsaafDo Apr 15, 2016 05:21pm

Such a sick mentality in IK ruled KP

Mahendra Apr 15, 2016 05:27pm

Reading about this "nasha" for the first time. Never heard of this in India till date.

ZX Apr 15, 2016 05:31pm

@FreeinsaafDo Why not simply Sharif ruled PAK?

SaifUllah Nasar Apr 15, 2016 05:32pm

I'll try this. Must be fun!

Harmony-1© Apr 15, 2016 05:32pm

@FreeinsaafDo - A PMLn spokesman indeed!

Janjuah Apr 15, 2016 05:33pm

Obnoxious sort of addiction. I have learnt that people smoke dried lizards , as well.

Daud Apr 15, 2016 05:35pm

@FreeinsaafDo come on man what IK has to do with it. Has he asked them to do it?

Dr Vimal Apr 15, 2016 05:38pm

Inhaling smoke itself could lead to CO narcosis.

Shariq Apr 15, 2016 05:54pm

My poor KPK. Where the leader of the ruling party is enjoying the addiction of dharnas and leaks, while its poor inhales scorpions'smoke.

Humayun Apr 15, 2016 05:57pm

"We need laws in place to stop the killing of scorpions", are you serious?? Know that the sting is very painful and sometimes lethal

Saad Apr 15, 2016 06:01pm

@Harsh I don't think you read the entire article

SKZ Apr 15, 2016 06:09pm

74-year-old Man, started smoking scorpions at the age of 20, still remembers old time, can talk and walk ...... and its highly injurious for mental and physical health--Really !

Shouka Tailee Apr 15, 2016 06:25pm

This is utterly disgusting just thinking of it!

Anjum Shehzad Apr 15, 2016 06:30pm


Glad no one does this in India.

It is hard to have such a claim for the whole country unless you know everyone.

JKR Apr 15, 2016 06:30pm

KPK govt should regulate 'safer' drugs, make efforts to educate on harmful drugs, and use proven rehabilitation methods for current users of heavy drugs.

Ali jee Apr 15, 2016 06:41pm

Just disgusting anyway u look

SR Khan Apr 15, 2016 06:43pm

In hope in a few days the JI leaders would accuse the US for this...

AK Apr 15, 2016 06:49pm

@Harsh obviously you can't read

khalid Apr 15, 2016 07:10pm

Why talk about India, when this is for KP

Unshackle Pakistan Apr 15, 2016 07:17pm

Using any drugs aren't just a matter of laws, but rather a matter of personal choice. If a person is harming their body it's that person's right to do so. The people or the government down't own someone or their free will.

This act of drug abuse is undesirable by most. Yet, it's the adherence to freedom of choice that makes one free and allows societies to grow into prosperity. Private organizations or people can choose to help and educate those about the dangers.

Alcohol poisoning is not at all common where alcohol is unrestricted. Restrictive laws force lower quality product to be used at higher prices, leading to more damage. An clear example is the Prohibition era in USA where the likes of Al Capone killed so many for alcohol while the ending of Prohibition simply eliminated violence & poisoning & left a tax generating industry.

Khan Apr 15, 2016 07:19pm

@khalid becuase they startd it ..and they practice it alot. Havn't you read there they get themselves stung by it and pays for it.

Najib Khan Apr 15, 2016 07:31pm

@Harsh Read the article please before commenting. It is much more common in India than anywhere else.

Amir Apr 15, 2016 07:35pm

Sick addiction!

Foolish Apr 15, 2016 07:54pm

Shocking News.

umair Apr 15, 2016 08:00pm

i dont know what is wrong with the people saying harsh things for these people. cut them some slack guys. show some empathy. substance abuse is a mental health issue. these people have a problem but that doesnt make them any less human then us. addiction if you read about its not easy to get over, some are not as strong as others. so show some respect and empathy. thanks

ROHIT PANDEY Apr 15, 2016 09:29pm

Thanks to Dawn for publishing this story.

googa200 Apr 15, 2016 09:38pm

@Harmonwhat y-1 how you say that its a reality check facts at grass root

Khanra Apr 15, 2016 09:46pm

Pakistan is a society which forces drug addicts into the dark. We are obsessed with appearing religious, so we abandon those who don't fit our criteria of what is paak, so we condemn them to ever worsening addiction.

a Apr 15, 2016 10:02pm

@Harsh You might be mistaken there !

Azhar jamil Apr 15, 2016 10:06pm

A shocking information.

Rahul Apr 15, 2016 11:19pm

Are humans the actual monsters of this day and age. Shame.

Really? Apr 16, 2016 12:03am

@Harsh Read the article again - smoke vs sting In India, where the use is common in a few states, the method is quicker, and more expensive. People holding scorpions in their hands park themselves in specific spots, and addicts come to have a 'sting of pleasure'. They pay between 100 to 150 Indian rupees for each sting.

Bilal Qureshi Apr 16, 2016 12:56am

@FreeinsaafDo Yeah blame this on Imran Khan too. Poor leader hasn't ruled KP for no more than 3 years.

Adil Jadoon Apr 16, 2016 02:36am

Addicts are addicts for a reason! also is the scorpion killed twice? .. "A dead scorpion is first dried in the sunlight or burnt on coal. The coal is kept on a traditional stove, and the scorpion is allowed to cook until it burns to death"

Karachite Apr 16, 2016 04:24am

Initially I thought this was another satire by NFP. Didn't know such a thing existed!

S.A.M. Apr 16, 2016 05:57am

I did not know that there was such an addiction like smoking a scorpion.

Philosopher (from Japan) Apr 16, 2016 06:23am

Smoking kills.

Prasad Iyer Apr 16, 2016 08:36am

The amazing thing is he made it to 74 years of age - so is it really that dangerous? You have to wonder.

Battleaxe Apr 16, 2016 08:43am

Scorpion venom can cause pain and high blood pressure on stinging

DT Apr 16, 2016 08:53am

@Harsh : I agree with you.

MrKam Apr 16, 2016 09:58am

@ZEEZOO KP an outlaw province? But there are more terrorists present in southern Punjab than in KP, The Punjab government may have specific objectives for not targeting them.

vasudevan Apr 16, 2016 10:47am

I never knew such a thing existed.

natey Apr 16, 2016 11:12am

there should be advertisement to give young ppl message to stayaway from them the pictures of ppl who are hardcore addicts..these things will scare em

Khan Apr 16, 2016 08:36pm

@Harsh You didn't read the whole article bud.

your name Apr 17, 2016 03:31am

@Harsh :According to the report, in some Indian states, non-fatal scorpian stings are used for highs.

your name Apr 17, 2016 03:34am

@Harmony-1© : In India , it is live scorpian stings for about R1500! So, no burnt scorpian--yet!

your name Apr 17, 2016 03:41am

@Shariq :Good One!

your name Apr 17, 2016 03:43am

@Humayun ; Their venom is used in scientific medicines for cancer and AIDS!

your name Apr 17, 2016 03:48am

@JKR : Just to be contrary, may I point out that highly drug addicted people are usually out of the job market and living on the fringes of society and thus, they don't compete much socially and economically for the nation's resources--allowing you more opportunities to live well. Putting them in prisons would cost a whole lot!

your name Apr 17, 2016 03:53am

@Najib Khan ;The article says it is done in a "few states" in India!--not "very common", therefore, in a country of 1.3 billion!

your name Apr 17, 2016 03:56am

@khalid : India is mentioned by comparison and for the different method of scorpian drug delivery. Drug suppliers and addicts are highly experimental --always searching for a new high. It destroys lives--after promising relief from all life's troubles! ISIS is a drug!

Scorpian hunter Apr 17, 2016 04:05am

@Khanra :Thank you the courage for pointing this out!

Hope. Apr 17, 2016 09:03am

@Harsh Read boy read in few indian states it is very common!

Fardad Ali Shah Apr 17, 2016 10:06am

@SKZ ha ha! good observation.

raw is war Apr 17, 2016 10:22am

People need to realise Scorpions are integral part of nature. Without scorpions, harmful insects will go out of control and cause many diseases.

Naveed Apr 17, 2016 01:35pm

Addiction of any kind brings bad health and low standard life. In KPK any kind of drug is welcomed because of very low rate of employment and bad quality of education.