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A recent banana bread bender—’tis the sea- son, right?—opened our eyes to the threat of vanilla. Yes, vanilla. When searching the baking aisle shelves at our neighborhood Safeway for vanilla extract, we found a sign that read, “For vanilla extract, see the customer service desk.”

What gives? That’s where they keep ciga- rettes and lottery tickets and other nefarious items, like high-powered rug cleaners. The nice women at the counter explained that “men” had been chugging the small bottles of alcohol- laden extract in the store, prompting the man- ager earlier this month to move the item to safer confines. The women added that other Safeway stores have encountered the same problem.

Vanilla extract runs about 35 percent alcohol by volume. By comparison, beer contains about 4-7 percent, depending on the brew. That means those little vials of vanilla can bring on a quick buzz that’s apparently irresistible to some.

Closeted drunks have known for years that you don’t need traditional booze to get your drink on. Rubbing alcohol, cold medicine and mouthwash all carry quite a punch. Hand sani- tizer is perhaps less popular, despite Jimmy Kimmel and actor John Cusack taking shots of it last year during an episode of Kimmel’s late-night talk show.

And grocery store intoxicants extend well beyond drinks. Whip cream canisters include nitrous oxide, or laughing gas, which provides a brief high when inhaled. Nutmeg contains the hallucinogenic myristicin; a Google search ex- plains that snorting, smoking or eating large quantities can cause anything from a marijuana- like buzz to hallucinations that reportedly last up to two days.

Before you start making a grocery list, it should go without saying that none of these are good for you and most can make you very sick. Drinking hand sanitizer triggers vision and mem- ory problems, along with potentially irreversible internal organ damage. Rubbing alcohol can kill. Nutmeg smokers experience heart palpitations, nausea and convulsions.

Safeway and its staff, meanwhile, are left to fend off the desperate degenerates looking for a quick high. Just six months ago the grocery chain started carding for cough syrups like NyQuil. Now that the store sequestered its vanilla, staffers say the new target is cooking wine. Last we checked, it’s still on the shelves. But at this rate, maybe they just need to start carding at the door.

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