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 euphoric.
The start of farming about 6000 B.C. and the later discovery of fermentation was closely followed by the production of alcohol.
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:
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 abused.
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.