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Scientifically Chill Advice for the Redditor Who Wants to Snort His Friend’s Ashes

Over at Reddit’s r/drugs, a useful forum should you need to confess that you took too much Adderall and passed out after masturbating, a curious party asked this question:

The post set off considerable chatter, with a few wondering if it wasn’t the work of a troll, but the idea is far from new. It’s more common, however, to hear of people snorting cremains by accident. The typical story involves burglars who mistake human or animal ashes for cocaine or heroin — like the three Florida teens who reportedly snarfed some of a woman’s late father and her two dead dogs after robbing her home in 2011. The fact-checking website Snopes casts doubt on these tales, noting that cremains are often gravelly in texture, not to mention rather gray compared to powdered drugs. Even so, it’s not so rare to have cremains processed into a finer dust for scattering purposes.

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So we’re back to the initial query: Can you (safely) suck your friend’s mortal remains through your sinus cavity?

The Rolling Stones’ Keith Richards, a drug legend in his own right, was apparently willing to settle the question in a 2007 NME interview. After his father was cremated, Richards “couldn’t resist grinding him up with a little bit of blow,” he said. “My dad wouldn’t have cared — he didn’t give a shit.”

The rock star, though, soon recanted, saying the story was a joke—only to later admit it was partially true. From the Daily Mail:

“I opened my dad’s ashes and some of them blew out over the table, just because of the suction of the lid, you know what I mean? I looked at my dad’s ashes down there and — what am I gonna do? Do I desecrate them with a dustbin and broom? So I wet me finger and I shoved a little bit of Dad up me hooter.”

Even if we could verify this, it’s never advisable to do something just because Keith Richards did it. Better to consider the chemical composition of human ashes — which aren’t ashes at all, but pulverized bone. As a result, your departed loved one’s urn is mostly full of calcium phosphates, compounds that can be used to treat low-blood calcium levels.

Given that snorting, or nasal insufflation, allows a substance to enter the bloodstream directly, blowing a line of calcium phosphates may seem reasonably safe. But bones can also retain trace heavy metals, including copper, lead and cadmium — maybe not enough to poison you, though I doubt the “high” is worth the risk. And calcium phosphates alone can cause an upset stomach or constipation.

Meanwhile, smoking human ash is another way to send your friend to the sweet hereafter. Tupac’s old hip-hop group, Outlawz, confirmed they did just that at a beach party memorial, in accordance with one of the late rapper’s lyrics: “Last wishes, niggas smoke my ashes.”

A doctor told The Huffington Post that this was likely no more dangerous than smoking anything else, though “respiratory complications” are always a possibility. And if this YouTube video of a guy smoking cremains is authentic, then we ought to add that the practice is also difficult and unpleasant. (It won’t get you many views, either.)

Ultimately, our druggie redditor went with this sensibly chill option: “I ended up putting some ashes into my bowl and sprinkling some in the ocean and licked my fingers clean after because what am I gonna do wash my friend down the drain? My homie deserved better than that.”

Fair point, but he may have overlooked the many other wonderfully irreverent tributes available to owners of cremains. You can put them inside a fancy glass dildo, shoot them into space, press them into a working vinyl record, blend them into tattoo ink or load them into bullets for a final hunting trip.

No judgment, of course, if you’d rather pack your pal into a bong. The same principle applies: Just because the dead are gone doesn’t mean they have to miss the fun.