Life in antiquity was in many ways very different from life as we know it today. The daily activities, thought practices or belief systems of the people of the past are of great interest to us even today. But there are some things that have remained unchanged from ancient times to the present. One of them is drug use. In our time, it is known that all kinds of drugs are very harmful to both physical and mental health.
But drug use is not a modern problem! Some scientific studies show that the history of drug use is very ancient. Ancient times; moreover, it is known that people living in different geographic regions of the world use psychoactive substances for similar reasons and in the same forms. So why and how did ancient people use drugs? Under what conditions did this extremely dangerous and interesting habit develop? Let’s look at the details together.
It is common knowledge that all drugs are extremely dangerous both physically and mentally.
However, as we mentioned above, the drug problem is not unique to our time. Because scientific studies show that the history of drug use goes back thousands of years. Moreover, these studies show that drug use in antiquity was not a region-specific habit, as it is today.
It is known that people in various geographical regions from South America to Asia, from Mesopotamia to Europe used drugs in ancient times.
This extraordinary information raises many questions, for example, why and how did people who lived in those periods use drugs, did they know about the dangers of drugs? Let’s search together for answers to these interesting questions hidden in the depths of the past…
Drug addicts of antiquity knew about the dangers of psychoactive substances!
At least they knew that these substances were highly addictive. However, it is not easy to say that drug use was rare in ancient times.
For example, the Roman historian Cassius Dio, who is estimated to have lived between 163 and 229, writes that Emperor Marcus Aurelius used opium because of insomnia and various health problems. On the other hand, the philosopher-king of Rome is not the only drug addict in antiquity…
Marijuana first appeared in Central or Southwest Asia 12,000 years ago.
Studies show that cannabis spread to different regions of this geography thousands of years ago and became popular, especially in Egypt, Greece and China. The ancient Greek historian Herodotus, in an article written by him in 440 BC, claims that the Scythians burned hemp seeds and inhaled the smoke.
During excavations in Syria, it was discovered that people who lived in antiquity cultivated poppy plants for use in the production of opium.
During excavations led by an archaeologist named Luca Peyronel, various plant remains, as well as poppy seeds, were found in the settlement, which is believed to belong to the nobility of that period. Moreover, the findings about ancient drug use are not limited to this.
Some clay tablets found in the Mesopotamian region and dated 8000 years ago contain information about the production of opium.
In 2019, research conducted at the Jirzankal Cemetery in Western China revealed barbecues that are thousands of years old. Almost all of these kebabs had leftover hemp.
These barbecues weren’t just for heating or cooking! Because the remains of a thousand-year-old hemp were found in almost all barbecues. These remains, which are considered one of the clearest examples of ancient drug use and found in an ancient cemetery, were an important answer to the question of why people used drugs in antiquity…
A study of a 3,000-year-old tomb off the coast of Spain has revealed clear examples of drug use.
The study, published in Scientific Reports in 2023, examined human hair found in a 3,000-year-old tomb. Scientists came to the conclusion that the person whose hair was examined used more than one drug during his life. This discovery was considered a very important discovery in the scientific world.
Because in previous years, the remains of drugs were found on many items that have survived from ancient times. However, the related study was one of the rare examples that clearly showed that people used drugs in ancient times…
It is possible to reproduce the data showing that people who lived thousands of years ago used drugs. But why did people who lived in antiquity use drugs?
According to scientists, the answer to this question is quite simple. The reasons for using drugs in ancient times were the same as those of modern people! Yes, scientific evidence shows that in ancient times, people used various drugs as recreational drugs.
For example, in the ancient Greek narrative, it is written that Helena, one of the important characters in mythology, mixed medicine into the drink of her guests, “to relieve all pain and make them forget all evil”! Of course, there are other rather interesting reasons for the ancient habit of using drugs.
Remains recovered from cemeteries and temples in various regions show that drugs were also used during religious rituals.
In the early Aztec and Mayan civilizations, various plants with psychoactive properties were cultivated and widely used during religious rituals. It is known that some religious figures who lived in the majestic temples of ancient Greek civilization used psychoactive substances to communicate with the gods and made prophecies while in a kind of trance. In short, drugs were an important part of religious rituals in ancient times.
Remains of drugs found in the tombs of ancient Egyptian civilization provide important insights into the causes of the use of related substances.
Tutankhamun, one of the ancient Egyptian pharaohs, was buried thousands of years ago along with a flower known to have narcotic properties and given the scientific name Nymphaeaceae caerulea. Similar plants in various religious motifs can be found in Egypt.
For this reason, scientists was used in ancient times to communicate with gods and dead people and was often associated with the afterlife. I think there are elements.
Drugs were also used as painkillers in ancient times.
However, there is some evidence, especially in Europe and South America, that landowners who found that workers could work for longer periods without fatigue under the influence of stimulants regularly gave their workers stimulant plants. In other words, people of the ancient period used different types of drugs for different purposes, just as they do today.
Substance abuse has many harmful consequences. Most importantly, it can cause death by poisoning. These substances affect the brain and cause distraction. This can lead to accidents, causing the disappearance of concepts such as speed, space and time. This can cause numerous problems such as digestive problems, hearing loss, respiratory problems, stroke, heart failure, cancer, and circulatory problems. Drug addiction not only harms the health of the individual, but also undermines business life, the national economy and public morality. Substance dependence can be treated. Especially in people who follow the principles of treatment, the rate of giving up this bad habit is very high. It should be noted that there is no “safe” chemical that can be used.
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