One of the most used drugs in the world is one you've probably never heard of
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What if I told you that one of the most commonly used stimulants in the world is one that you've probably never even heard of?
The highly addictive substance is used by hundreds of millions of people around the world - but its effects can be seriously dangerous.
So, what exactly is it? And why is it used by so many?
Of course, the word 'addictive substance' often makes illegal and dangerous street drugs such as heroin and cocaine come to mind... and not a seed that grows in the trees of South Asia.
We are talking about the betel nut, which is essentially just a seed that grows on an areca palm, typically found in South Asia.
The most common way to take a betel nut is to chop it up into thin strips and roll it up in a betel leaf with crushed seashells or slaked lime, per the Alcohol and Drug Foundation.
That leaf package is known as a betel quid, and also typically contains other flavour enhancers like cloves, coconut, sugar, cardamom, nutmeg, fruit extracts, syrups and tobacco.
In some regions, chewing betel nut is a common cultural practice, but the nut can be addictive and come with some major risk factors.
At first, the betel nut can give users a sense of euphoria and alertness. For some, it can even work as an anti-depressant.
But, according to the World Health Organisation, the prolonged use of the betel nut can cause addiction and result in serious health problems from stomach ulcers and heart disease to cancer.
Because it's a substance that you chew, a lot of the health problems associated with the betel nut are oral.
This can include a discolouration of the teeth and gums, mouth ulcers, gum disease, and oral cancers.
Other unpleasant effects can include psychosis, tremors, dizziness, diarrhoea, vomiting, high blood pressure and, of course, further dependence on the substance.
But that doesn't seem to stop people from taking it.
According to Science Daily, the betel nut is used by between 200 million and 600 million people on a regular basis. It's also regarded as the fourth most-used stimulant in the world after caffeine, alcohol and tobacco.
In certain countries, there are strict laws surrounding the possession and importation of betel nuts, thanks to an active ingredient called arecoline. But in both the US and UK, betel is legal.
That being said, the cons really outweigh the pros with this substance so, unless you hate your teeth, this is one to steer clear from.