Ted “fire breathing idiot” Barrus has made somewhat of a name for himself as a man who can handle the heat. For Barrus to consume spicy peppers is a point of pride — after all, he’s the one who gave himself that nickname. But some days, the world dulls. Barrus wanted to “just do crazy shit, out of the blue.” So he decided to bong rip a Carolina Reaper, the spiciest, scariest pepper in the world.
In the appropriately titled “TED BARRUS BONG RIPS THE CAROLINA REAPER PUKE WARNING,” Barrus stuffs one bright, oily Carolina Reaper into the bowl of the bong. Designated the hottest by the Guinness World Records, it rates an average of 1,569,300 Scoville heat units. Comparatively, a jalapeño has a score between 2,500 and 5,000.
“This is the first time I’ve ever been scared to do something on YouTube,” Barrus says before he lights up. It does not go well.
Why would smoking a pepper lead to gagging, uncontrollable noises, and eventual vomiting? It’s all in the chemicals, baby. The pepper smoke is cooled by passing through the water in the bong, but the smoke is carrying the same compounds that makes the pepper so hot in the first place. Chilis contain compounds called capsaicinoids, which cause a burning sensation when they encounter mucous membranes like those in the mouth.
Because mucous membranes are the receptors that alert the body about heat and physical pain, the feeling of burning starts to happen. As scientist Barry Green notes in Scientific American, these receptors act in the same way that skin receptors do when they respond to exposure to actual fire. Spicy food triggers “an ambiguous neural response” so the brain considers what the stimuli (capsaicin) is communicating: “This is a very hot and very intense situation.” That’s why the brain interprets the pain of spicy foods as if you’re being engorged in literal fire, rather than say, being cut.
Spicy foods aren’t all bad — studies have found consuming some spicy food can decrease the chance of cancer and obesity. But what is unequivocally bad is ripping a big ‘ole bong load of the hottest pepper known to man. If you want to get famous on YouTube without the vomiting, maybe try the safest and most popular fad online: unboxing.