One of the finest ever Internet-bred hoaxes is the jenkem epidemic.
Late in the last decade, rumors circulated of teens huffing containers of fermented raw sewage in order to get high. Jenkem, or butt-hash, was considered such a real threat to kids' safety and sanity that police in Florida circulated a jenkem alert to parents, warning them that their kids may be sniffing shit. It was, of course, a complete fabrication.
This week, the new "viral" drug is coffee. Not drinking espresso by the gallon, but smoking coffee. All the cool kids are doing it, television stations in Las Vegas and Charlotte reported.
Except there's a problem. Smoking coffee doesn't actually get you high -- and it doesn't even help you poop, as an intrepid reporter for VICE discovered this week.
Intrigued, SF Weekly contacted a doctor who specializes in addiction medicine. He dismissed coffee-smoking outright as media nonsense.
In other words, smoking coffee is the modern-day jenkem.
Caffeine is, of course, one of the world's most abused and most wonderful drugs. Millions of Americans are outright addicted to the stuff. And it is good.
It's not clear why Las Vegas TV station KNTV chose last week to do a spot on the "viral" trend of teens smoking coffee. A Reddit user posted about the joys of burnt Java fumes in 2011. There appears to be an Internet footprint of smoking coffee since at least then.
The TV station's report went viral, and was picked up and picked apart by a variety of media over the last few days.
And if teens or anyone else does start a coffee-smoking habit, it'll be the media's fault, Santa Monica-based addiction specialist Dr. Gregory Skipper told us.
Like the poor soul at VICE, it's likely nobody tried to smoke coffee before they heard that it was "a thing." Skipper has never seen or heard of anyone trying a puff on Chock Full o Nuts, he said.
Nor has anyone else at Los Angeles-based rehab center Promises. So if a recovering junkie isn't going to the kitchen for a fix from coffee grounds, nobody else is, either.
"If it catches on we'll have the media to thank for a media-driven epidemic," he said. "Next we'll hear of people, like my wife, who don't like coffee preferring smoked English Breakfast Tea!"