Thinly Disguised Woman Aims To Use Homemade Narcotics To Turn Wholesome Book Club into Den of Atheists

January 16th, 2011

Dear Charles,

Last evening I hosted book club at my house.  One of the attendees brought a loaf of poppy seed bread to the fête.  I think she did this because I had sent out an e-mail announcing to the group that if they were expecting any baked goods to prepare to be disappointed.  (I always like to lower expectations for any parties that I am hosting that way, should I actually rise to the occasion, clean house, cook food and prepare exotic mixed beverages, everyone will be happily shocked and surprised.)  So anyway – back to me, me, more me, and also me.  I did (reluctantly) of course manage to rise to the occasion and I baked a lovely chocolate pound cake sprinkled with powdered sugar and served with saucy raspberries on the side.  The cake was very beautiful to behold, but it actually tasted pretty mediocre.  Still, my guests politely ate most of their slices because they are all very nice people.  Fortunately, my friend Kim had also brought her bread which was both lovely AND delicious so we all ate some of that too.  Eventually, our meeting broke up and everyone left, but there was plenty of cake and bread leftover because women generally only make complete pigs of themselves in private.  As I was cleaning up the leftovers, I remembered that poppy seeds are a narcotic.  And then I remembered from my old days as the spice girl at the health food co-op that nutmeg is also capable of getting a body high.  And I started wondering if there was some kind of combination of these two spices that would make an interesting treat to serve the next time I host book club.  Would it be possible to “unwittingly” drug my guests with the humble inhabitants of my spice cupboard?  Would that help us to say what we really mean?  For instance, if everyone at my book club was stoned, would I be able to convince them to read one of my atheist books for our next meeting?  Because I kind of wanted to do that, but I chickened out and suggested Bill Bryson and Malcolm Gladwell instead.  Would a potent combination of poppy seeds and nutmeg wrapped inside of an irresistible quick bread make me a braver person while simultaneously making my guests more open to my radical ideas?


So not a crack head


Dear So not a crack head –

A good rule of thumb to follow in looking for consciousness-altering substances that aren’t alcohol is that if it’s legal, its effect on your consciousness will be either negligible or unpleasant and the disagreeable side-effects will be plentiful. Case in point: nutmeg. In the course of some hasty Internet research, I found an account of a “nutmeg trip.” This doesn’t exactly sound like what you’re after. If you can get enough nutmeg into all of the club members, you’ll then need to keep them at the meeting for about 5 hours (at which point the peak of the nutmeg’s intoxicating effects will be felt). You’ll spend a portion of that time peering through bloodshot eyes at your guests and listening to their complaints about nausea, dry mouth, and flu-like symptoms until everyone loses the desire to communicate and clams up, each retreating deeper and deeper into her own nutmeg hell of intensifying disturbing physical effects and acute anxiety. At about this point, you’ll probably want to call it a night so that you all can get on with an evening of lying awake in bed, starting at the slightest sound, and trying to remember to breathe. I’m uncertain when in this course of developments would be a good time to nominate one of your atheist books as the next club selection.

Poppy seeds would seem to be a dead end too, requiring lots of effort for little or no effect, with a risk of death.

With the right equipment, you can make methamphetamine out of decongestants and diet pills if you can get your hands on enough of them, which is hard to do because it’s illegal to purchase more than a small amount of these items in a specified time period, so it may take a while to accumulate the materials you need. Methamphetamine produces a large grab bag of strong effects that includes self-confidence and sociability, so you may be more persuasive while you’re on it, but it’s doubtful that the club members would be more receptive to your ideas if they were on it, and anyway, we’re getting into territory where it would be harder to claim that any drugging of the club members was done unwittingly, especially if you attempted to administer the drug intravenously or via suppositories. Add to that the trouble and risk involved in the production of methamphetamine and the damage it does to the human body and psyche, and it’s clear that we are once again barking up the wrong tree. I know it’s not a tree you intended to bark up, but given your obvious do-it-yourself spirit and strong desire to drug your guests, I thought it possible that you would get around to barking up it sooner or later, so I thought I’d preemptively advise against it.

As you can see, although concocting your own narcotics from everyday household items sounds like a fun project, it is likely to be a lot of trouble, and the reward for that trouble is likely to be more trouble. Therefore, it would probably be best to let the pros handle the manufacture of the drugs and to consider only well-established, respected drugs for your project.

Choosing just the right drug for consumption by a group of people with the aim of making one of those people courageous about expressing her ideas while making the rest of the group more receptive to any ideas that happen to be expressed can be tricky, because such a drug would have to make a person courageous and receptive at the same time, and there’s always the danger that someone else will express an idea they normally wouldn’t express and you normally wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole and that you (and the rest of the group) will be helplessly receptive to it and that the meeting will adjourn with everyone’s having agreed to read Dr. James Dobson’s Marriage Under Fire: Why We Must Win This Battle for next time. To avert a tragic outcome of this kind, it might be best to take a courage-enhancing drug yourself but to give your guests a different drug, one that will make them receptive but not necessarily courageous or outgoing.

One thing to consider in choosing a drug for your guests is that you’ll want to lower their defenses sufficiently without putting them so far out of it that they cannot easily recall what transpired at the meeting. If a club member wakes up on the following day next to a copy of God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything and finds that she must struggle to recall how she hooked up with that book, she will probably swear off the book club for good after completing the delicate, shamefaced, and awkward procedure of extricating herself from the company of the book.

If you would like to try separate drugs for you and your guests, perhaps the best combination would be alcohol for you and marijuana for your guests. Alcohol, of course, is renowned for the sociability and courage it bestows upon all whose lips it crosses, so you will be eager and fearless in proposing any idea that strikes your fancy, although it might be best to make an effort to stick to ideas that struck your fancy before you started drinking and to avoid those that occur to you as the effects of the alcohol intensify. Marijuana will enable your guests to see the coolness of your ideas while preventing them from concentrating long enough to formulate any objections. You could include the marijuana as an ingredient in whatever baked good you serve. You should announce to the group beforehand that they should prepare to be thrilled if they are expecting any baked goods and that you will consider it an insult if anyone shows up with any competition for your exquisite treats. Since the club members will not make complete pigs of themselves during the meeting, they will be unlikely to consume enough cannabis to obliterate their memories of the evening. Make a small quantity of an unspiked version of the baked good for your own consumption, and serve your guests a nonalcoholic beverage that’s the same color as the whisky that will be in your glass.

If you prefer not to risk being carted off to jail and having all your property confiscated, you’ll probably want to eliminate marijuana from the plan and just stick with alcohol. If you have a feel for how alcohol affects each of your guests, you can personalize each drink, serving the good stuff to those who become more agreeable as their blood alcohol level rises and watering down the drinks of those who become surly or otherwise unpleasant when inebriated.

A drug/alcohol-free strategy you might consider is to work up to the hardcore atheist books gradually. If you want to take somebody somewhere, you must start from where they are, so the next time it’s your turn to suggest a selection, choose a book in which center stage is taken by a subject or story you judge to be likely to resonate with most club members but which also contains some embedded atheist ideas, and make sure those ideas are covered in the discussion of the book. If you get a sense from that discussion that most of the club is willing to consider such ideas, for your next selection choose a book with a heavy atheist bent but with some material that doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with atheism. A good book for this phase might be Mark Twain’s The Mysterious Stranger. It’s still kind of safe, because Mark Twain (a.k.a. “America’s Sweetheart”) is revered in literary circles far and wide and is known for his nonthreatening, folksy wit by people who haven’t read his work. If you suggest The Mysterious Stranger and things turn ugly after everyone has read it, you can feign surprise at the surprise ending and claim that you hadn’t read it before but that it was recommended to you by an angel in a dazzling outfit who appeared to you in a pyrotechnical vision and you just thought it sounded like an interesting story. If things don’t turn ugly after everyone has read it, and if the discussion inspired by it is promising, you might find that you’re able to suggest an atheist book whose only nonatheist material is the dedication. From there, it’s just a few short steps to the dawn of a thriving atheist community in your town, which, thanks to your efforts, may eventually become known as the atheist capital of small-town Kansas, if that’s where you happen to live.

Looking forward to seeing how that status is reflected on the official website for your town,



  • Tracy:

    I thought we should try drugging my 4th grader’s basketball team with Mountain Dew so they would be more alert and energetic for the game, but we chickened out. Good luck drugging the book club!

  • I'm Rhonda, and I'm here to help:

    Start off with a joke and see how it goes over.

    Q: What do you get when you mix an Insomniac, and Agnostic and a Dyslexic?
    A: Someone who stays up all night wondering if there really is a Dog.

    • Rechelle:

      Ar ar ar…
      …or is that arf arf arf?