In 1969, the US had a brief and crunchy moral panic. People, including senators, believed that members of the public were injecting themselves with peanut butter to get high.
The panic, according to website The Museum of Hoaxes, began at the American Academy of Pediatrics annual meeting in October 1969. At the meeting, two government experts working for the Federal Bureau of Narcotics claimed that the youth had been injecting peanut butter and mayonnaise to get high, thanks to a book circulating amongst them that told them it would give them "a little trip".
According to the duo, the fad had already caused several deaths. The panic, as is customary, spread in the media, and it wasn't too long before other officials claimed that they knew of deaths in their own communities. Then talk of injecting Skippy (smooth, of course, only the most hardened users go crunchy) made it to the Senate.
"When you find out a person gets a big kick out of injecting peanut butter in his veins, what do you do?" Senator Fong asked Dr Stanley F Yolles, who replied, "I think the only kick they get out of peanut butter is the final kick. It is a very dangerous practice, to say the least; it causes death if injected in any large quantity."
After being asked to comment on what the Bureau does in cases like that, Yolles replied that they do not get involved with individual cases, but wanted to warn the public of the dangers of such things.
"But we are not using scare tactics; we are trying to give out straight factual information," Yolles said, still talking about the idea of people shooting up a tub of Smucker's, "because we have had experience over the years with mis-information deliberately set out to scare people about using various substances and this has not worked."
"It has backfired on us; today there is a large proportion of the population, especially the young people, who just don't believe what we are telling them anymore. It is of great concern to public health people when they try to get across some of the dangers of using some of these drugs and the audience to which they are directing their remarks don't believe them because of all the misinformation that has been handed out in the last 25 years."
In the initial phase of the panic, it was reported that the peanut butter was mixed with mayo, though later stories dispensed with the mayonnaise part. Nobody knew who the idea came from (largely because it wasn't real) and it was presumed that some pioneer had simply decided to inject themselves with the spreads to see what happened. One idea people had for how it could get you high is that it deprived the brain of oxygen, but again this was presented without evidence.
There are no reports in the medical literature of people injecting peanut butter and mayo to date, neither combined nor individually. Whatever started this rumor, it is unlikely to be an actual case of someone doing it.
A more likely, though not confirmed, theory is that government drug experts had taken some drug slang a little too literally. Mayo began being used as slang for cocaine in the 1940s, and later heroin. Perhaps someone misunderstood this, because there are no legitimate records – repeated rumor does not count – of anybody shooting up a jar of Hellman's.