From ancient wines and ceremonial herbs to powdered Palcohol and digital drugs, humankind has always gravitated toward new ways to get intoxicated. Over time, we've discovered thousands of naturally occurring plants that have mind-altering properties if they're consumed under the right conditions. Today, pharmaceutical companies capitalize on these chemicals while entrepreneurs explore new ways to stimulate our senses and ingest our drugs of choice.
But why does this interest persist? What makes intoxication so appealing, and how do you moderate your own substance use in a world that celebrates and encourages excess? People have experimented with new products and chemicals for a long time, but if you want to put your own habits in perspective, it helps to know the most common reasons.
Psilocybin, the active ingredient in psychedelic mushrooms, is one of the oldest known examples of an intentionally mind-altering drug. It induces euphoric, creative, hallucinatory states of consciousness, and these effects could only be described as divine in ancient times.
Prehistoric rock paintings depicted shamans using it in rituals, while Aztec carvings identified "genius mushrooms" because of the prophecies it seemed to reveal. Later, Native American tribes smoked peyote and drank mushroom tea. Today, Rastafarians revere marijuana as a sacred herb while many Christian churches practice a centuries-old tradition of serving wine that represents the blood of Jesus himself.
You might assume that substance use has always revolved around the effects it produces: pain and stress relief, loosened inhibitions, and sleepiness, to name just a few. However, these effects were secondary when humans first used some of our most common substances. Alcohol is the best example, because it was discovered accidentally when fruits and grains began to ferment, and it was subsequently incorporated into human history as a dietary staple.
Beer originated as mead, a "liquid bread" that provided sustenance for grueling hours of agricultural labor. Fermentation was the best way to preserve harvested grains, so it became the most common way to consume its nutritious ingredients. Wine, meanwhile, was safer than contaminated water for thirsty travelers. More than a millennium later, homeless shelters report that some still rely on the effects of alcohol or crack to stay warm, proving that some substances have always served practical purposes.
Most substance use starts in a social setting. Alcohol and other mind-altering substances make it seem easier to socialize with new people, which is why ancient Greeks indulged in free-flowing wine at big, romantic parties. British writers later hung out in opium dens for pain relief and creative inspiration. Today, keg parties, raves, vape parties, and even wine and cheese tastings are commonplace examples of social rituals that revolve around an intoxicating substance.
Beyond the shared effects of intoxication, the novelty of a new drug like Palcohol — or the exclusive allure of a rare, expensive, or highly illegal drug — is enough to inspire friendships and form communities of users and dealers. For some particularly powerful substances, sharing access is even more important in bonding than enjoying the effects together.
If you drink or use drugs, do you choose intoxication because it allows you to forget about your basic responsibilities, avoid your negative feelings and memories, or eradicate psychological obstacles like social anxiety? If so, you're in a very big club. Whether it's a cocktail at a bar, an edible at a dispensary, or a designer pill that everyone else is trying, drugs have always provided a way for humans to escape from everyday reality.
Life has highs and lows for everyone, but if you always choose artificial highs in order to avoid your lows, you won't learn how to cope with your own consciousness. All drug use has had one thing in common: choice. The choice to use drugs is the one constant that has always drawn people toward intoxication.
If you find that substance use is beginning to have too many negative consequences for you and you want to stop, start confronting real obstacles, and enjoy real connections, you always have the power to do it. Call Saint Jude Retreats today to speak to a knowledgeable and caring Family Consultant who can help you decide if a self-directed plan of change is a good option for you.