The Evolution of Drug Use in History

Using drugs to manage pain, help with illness, and address other health concerns has been a historically documented tradition that dates back to ancient times. In fact, there have been records uncovered in ancient Sumerian, Babylonian, and Egyptian societies showing that physicians of that time were making regular attempts to accomplish some sort of affect similar to anesthesia.

The Renaissance contributed to the advancement of medical technique and theory, as more was discovered by exploring human biology as well as having new technology created that helps with surgical and other medical procedures.

Some of the drugs that are used in modern day times actually had an equivalent that was used, both medically and recreationally, in ancient civilizations as well. While not much is known about the effects these drugs had on people in a day to day physical and mental capacity. It’s safe to assume that for those who became addicted to certain drugs may not have been as much support or options available to them. For example, someone today who is addicted to opiates, and located in a state such as Mississippi, may be able to do something as simple as Googling “Mississippi methadone treatment” in order to find the resources and support they need. However, before information was widely shared and available to those who needed it, treatment wasn’t something that could be easily planned or shared.

Some of the more potent drugs that we equate with medical and at times recreational use actually existed in some form during ancient times. Here is a list with some of the more uncommonly known substitutes for modern drugs we have today.

  1. Opium Poppies:

Opium poppies, also known as the Hul Gil or joy plant according to Sumerians has a recorded use as early as 3400 BCE. It is a common joke among historians that apparently, while humans were also learning how to write, they were also getting immensely high.

Maybe not the best taste in jokes, but it does nicely set the historical precedent. This one of the most commonly used drugs in ancient civilizations.

 At around 1500 BCE, ancient Egyptians were publishing common treatments using opium poppies, which was primarily able to help quiet a crying child. The opium poppies were also commonly associated with gods and goddesses, and therefore many qualities were attributed to these gods and goddesses and the effects of the drugs.

Hypnos, the representation of sleep, and Nyx, the representation of night were both depicted with crowns of poppies. However, put together they both represent death and sleep.

  1.  Blue Lotus

Another commonly used drug with similar effects to modern drugs today that was used in ancient times was the blue lotus. Originally, it was known to be a favorite of the ancient Egyptians.

The effects of the blue lotus make its users more relaxed, confident, and talkative. It could even sometimes have an effect of making the user more aroused. Mostly, the blue lotus was consumed by brewing it with hot water to create a type of tea. Another method that was also used to consume the blue lotus was steeping it in alcohol for a few weeks. The alcohol would enhance the effects of the blue lotus flower.

  1. Nutmeg

Strangely enough, something that we know currently to be used in many different modern recipes was at one time, used as a sedative in ancient Indian and Asian cultures.

Nutmeg also has a recognized benefit to being helpful to those who have asthma or may be suffering from a heart condition. It has also been believed to relieve digestive health problems and attributed to being a sleeping aid as well.

Nutmeg has also been hailed as a very supernatural and holistic form of medicine. Many in ancient civilizations up until mid-nineteenth century English times believed that it was an ingredient that was used in magical potions and other witchcraft.

So, how can a spice that is commonly used in cooking and baking also be considered a hallucinogenic? It is more common than you think. Nutmeg has been demoted to a pseudo-hallucinogen by many medical professionals. However, there have been reported effects of physical and visual sensations after consuming the nutmeg orally in increased doses. Other common side effects are that irritation of the skin and mild nausea accompany use of nutmeg.

  1. Psilocybin

In Central and South America, as well as the Saharan desert, Psilocybin is a type of mushroom. It is also well known as a magic mushroom, and are even believed by some, like scholar Terence McKenna, to have revolutionized the cultural and spiritual awakening in humanity.

After consuming these magic mushrooms, nausea and visual, or oral hallucinations are also common. They were referred to as magic mushrooms because of the amount of hallucinations reported and what the users saw, heard, felt, or smelled while using them.

It was very common for shamans to consume psilocybin and use the following hallucinations to make predictions about the future, answer advice, or give their opinion on something that may have been plaguing their town.

Drugs, both medicinal and recreational, have quite literally been around since the dawn of time. It can be easy to think, what with all the technological, social, and medical advancements made within the last 10 years alone, that medicinal and recreational drugs were also created in a more recent time span.

But, with all these recent advancements that have been made, it is important to recognize that people who have been struggling with addiction and recovery should be allowed to have the chance that people in the past didn’t; an actual chance to receive the treatment they need.

More and more, the topic of drug abuse and recovery has been a topic that is talked about openly. It’s important to continue this trend to allow for those who need treatment or don’t know much about treatment options are given the information they need. If you or a loved one is struggling with an addiction, contact a medical professional or rehabilitation center to find out more information.

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