History of drug and alcohol abuse
Drug use and abuse is as old as mankind
itself. Human beings have always had a
desire to eat or drink substances that
make them feel relaxed, stimulated, or
The start of farming about 6000 B.C.
and the later discovery of fermentation
was closely followed by the production
As time went by, "home remedies" were
discovered and used to alleviate aches,
pains and other ailments. Most of these
preparations were herbs, roots,
mushrooms or fungi. They had to be
eaten, drunk, rubbed on the skin, or
inhaled to achieve the desired effect.
These were all naturally occurring
substances. No refinement had occurred,
and isolation of specific compounds
(drugs) had not taken place.
Certain of these preparations were
discovered to produce euphoria,
exaltation, and trance-like states. Many
of these were used in religious rites.
Drugs also were used:
- To see visions or gain insights
- To dull the pain of ritual
mutilation in intiation ceremonies
- To enhance the the strength and pain
resistance of warriors to prepare them
for battle, or to program them to kill
- As pain or hunger suppressants
- To help cope with thin air at high
- To relax during celebrations
By current standards, the historical
use of herbal preparations was not too
harmful. It became so only after mankind
learned to increase the potency and
effects of these substances.
Alcohol becomes more potent
It is likely the first drug to have its
potency increased was alcohol, through
the discovery of distillation. The
strongest naturally occurring alcohol
preparation was homemade wine, in which
the alcohol level could reach a high of
about 14-16 % by volume.
It was found that by distillation of
the alcohol into spirits such as rum,
rye, scotch, gin or vodka, the potency
could be more than doubled. The
distillation process later was improved,
allowing for over-proof spirits and
absolute alcohol (100% by volume). By
inference, in the more potent product,
less alcohol (volume) was required to
generate the desirable effect.
Alcohol represents mankind's
overwhelming desire to enhance the
potency of the preparation to be used or
Bigger and better highs
Over time, people have isolated the
psychoactive chemicals in plant and
animal materials. Some have been
motivated by a desire to achieve "bigger
and better" highs. Others have sought to
alleviate medical conditions or disease.