Here’s How People Have Started Using Drugs 13 Millennia Ago

Humans have started using 13 millennia ago

Nowadays, drug use is a taboo subject, but centuries ago it was a common practice in different parts of the world. The war on drugs has started half a century ago, but this doesn’t mean we have to deny our ancestors’ past.

A new research in the Journal of Psychedelic Studies tells us the truth: humans have started using narcotics 13 millennia ago. But how did the researchers find out when people discovered their passion for mind-altering substances?

Well, study author Giorgio Samorini supervised interesting research. Scientists studied the existing archaeological literature to discover when humans have been using drugs like cannabis, opium, magic mushrooms, alcohol, and many other psychoactive plants.

Mount Carmel (Israel) is the place where researchers discovered the first signs of substance abuse. Apparently, starch granules found on tools revealed deformities correlated to beer brewing.
So, our ancestors have been drinking beer since the 11th century BCE (approximatively 13,000 years). This discovery suggests that alcohol is the first drug substance used by human species. Cheers!

Cannabis comes from Tibetan Plateau

Cannabis leaves
Photo by Matthew Brodeur on Unsplash

But the first cannabis plant was discovered in Tibetan Plateau (China). According to an analysis of fossil pollen, cannabis was also present in this high-altitude ecosystem.

As I wrote before, cannabis started from Tibetan Plateau, but it managed to reach Europe 6 million years ago. Also, this drug has traveled the world, spreading as far as eastern China 1.2 million years ago.

Opium Poppy

Red Poppies
Photo by Milos Tonchevski on Unsplash

Opium was one of the most used drugs of all time, but it didn’t come from Afghanistan as you may think. Initially, opium poppies were first created in Italy by cross-pollination of different types of non-opium-containing poppies.

Archaeologists found various intermediate forms between the natural poppy and the opium poppy at a Neolithic site in Rome. This means that Roman citizens developed the first narcotic strain of this drug around 5600 BCE.

Magic mushrooms

Mushrooms on a rock
Photo by Jannik Selz on Unsplash

Magic mushrooms are well-known for their psychedelic effects. The first signs of this narcotic use came from the Sahara desert.

There are prehistoric paintings from around 8,000 years ago illustrating humans holding mushrooms, from which dotted lines connect to their heads. This type of art could represent the psychoactive effects of the fungus on the human mind.

Cocaine: Coca-Cola’s secret ingredient

Man pouring sauce on burger and fries
Photo by Danny Trujillo on Unsplash

Last but not least is cocaine, one of the most dangerous drugs of natural origins. What started as a religious tradition in the Andes has turned into the worst addiction in the whole world.

While ancient Incas in the Andes chewed coca leaves to speed their breathing to resist living in thin mountain air, Peruvians chewed coca leaves only during religious ceremonies.

In the XIXth century, cocaine has become popular among both Hollywood stars and famous doctors. Can you imagine that this substance was so popular that even Coca-Cola included coca leaves?

Until the late 1980s, cocaine was no longer thought of as the drug of choice. By that period, it had the reputation of the most dangerous and addictive drug, linked with murder and death.

Summarizing these studies, Samorini and his team found out the oldest archaeological evidence for drug use and abuse. It appears that our guilty pleasure for narcotics goes back more than 13 millennia.

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