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By Alex Olivares

[dropcap]I[/dropcap] woke up thinking I was having a heart attack. Instead I was experiencing the most severe heartburn of my life, the kind that comes from eating the spiciest chili pepper in the world — the infamous Carolina Reaper.

I was asleep when a cold rush smacked me in the face. My chest tightened. My breath escaped me.

I lurched forward. Placing my hand over my sternum, I was relieved to find my heart was still beating, but rapidly.

The decision to buy a batch of Carolina Reapers hadn’t been my own bright idea. My family had been exploring the world of extreme peppers online when they discovered a farm that sells the peppers.

Ed Currie, founder and president of the appropriately named Puckerbutt Pepper Company, bred the Carolina Reapers for the sole reason of being the world’s hottest. On the Scoville Scale, a measurement of spiciness, Currie’s creations can reach as high as 2.2 million units — eight times hotter than a habanero.

When the peppers arrived, I took two out of the Ziploc bag they came in. There were eight of them and each had wrinkly, dark red skin and a horn in the middle of their plump bodies that looked like a middle finger flipping me off. These little guys had attitude.

When I first ate it, the heat of the pepper wasn’t too intense. It hurt, but I wasn’t sure it was deserving of hottest ever.  However, the real pain began during digestion.

As it made its way down, it felt like a hot brick passing down my esophagus into my stomach. The heavy feeling went away,  but I burped out hot foam and got a headache.

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The next day, I felt like my intestines went through a grinder. The burning subsided but I was running to the toilet all day. Popping four Pepto Bismols didn’t help. It was another 24 hours of pain before the symptoms went away.

Friends who heard about my experience asked me the same question: would I do it again. I can say without hesitation that the answer is no. Hell no.

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