As a specie, we have been guilty of recreational drug use ever since the dawn of history. Sumerians purportedly had a symbol for opium which translates to “joy” dating as far back as 7000 years ago. Yes, some researchers strongly claim say getting a fix has started way before formal history, proposing that the use of mind-altering substances was already a thing for the Stone Age man. Whether or not we could call them the original “stoners” still has to reach its conclusion. While waiting for them smarty-pantsies finish their debate, here are other facts about the use of mind-altering substances you probably don’t want to know.
We’re not the only suspects
Horses share a thing or two with us humans. During winter when food is scarce horses make do with what’s abundantly around, which is the aptly named locoweed. What these horses don’t know is that once tasted they will always be wanting locoweed and only locoweed. Sounds like horses getting addicted? Sadly for these horses, locoweed not only makes them literally “loco” (staggering gait, lethargic one second and jumpy the next, becoming extremely troublesome), but ingestion of the legume actually poisons them which in many cases lead to death.
Perhaps horses should stick with “frog juice” instead? Dermorphin, a substance found in the back of a frog that is forty times more powerful than morphine, has been used by racing trainers to enhance the performance of their injured horses by numbing the pain. Aside from this, it also causes excitation and euphoric states. This less fatal alternative for locoweed might prove to be good news for the equines. Not so much for the frogs though.
Lassie does it too
Or perhaps her Australian versions do. Queensland dogs were dubbed by vets as “serial lickers” for repeated cases of cane toad poisoning. It is assumed that the sweetness of toad sweat was what attracted the dogs to start licking at first, but the hallucinogenic effects were the ones that kept them coming.
Cane toads produce “toad venom” as a defense mechanism (which is intentionally triggered by dogs by chasing their amphibian “drug pushers”) and it contains the hallucinogenic Bufotenine, a substance producing the same effect as LSD. Because of the psychedelic opportunities offered by the poor humble toad in its frightened/alarmed state, they have become some people’s most favorite animal–even having a church founded in their honor.
And yet Dumbo is the worst of ‘em all
No, we’re not talking about that elephant who got addicted to heroin after he was fed with drugged bananas laced with the stuff. It’s not even the once living, Victorian-era elephant Jumbo (to whom Disney’s Dumbo was based and the widely-recognized adjective for something immensely huge like say, jumbo thighs, originated) who was apparently managed by his “caretakers” by giving him huge amounts of alcohol.
Those elephants seem innocent compared to the fifty elephants who ransacked a village in search of booze. Elephants apparently are very fond of alcohol that wherever liquor is in store, there their trunks would follow. In the Indian village of Dumurkota last 2012, fifty elephants were lured out of the forest by the smell of alcohol from one of its shops, consuming approximately 500 liters of the stuff. Not satisfied with that, they rampaged through the village searching for more booze destroying three houses as a result.
And yet those fifty rowdy pachyderms committed less damage compared to a single elephant who wreaked havoc in the village of Dalokgarupara last 2005. Three people were killed and seven were injured as this stray elephant went berserk searching for rice beer.
Santa and the Urine Exchange
Yes, this one’s still drug-related. There’s a theory saying arctic shamans were the inspiration for the conjuring of Santa Claus. What’s really interesting though is the supposed origin of the flying reindeer.
Rather than taking LSD, the Sami people feed fly agaric mushroom (the Amanita muscaria, whose red and white color supports the origin of Santa theory) to their reindeers and collect these creatures’ urine, and drink it in order to get high. Ingestion of reindeer pee resulted to vivid hallucinations such as that the Sami people thought their reindeers are flying through the arctic sky.
But here’s more: the reindeers have developed such a liking for these hallucinogens that when the Samis pee on the snow during their “high” states, the reindeers in turn eat the snow to get the same effect. Now that is mutually beneficial.
Ants and the Manipulative Tree
Here’s another tale of addiction and what seems to be a mutually beneficial relationship–at first. Have you ever wondered why the acacia tree is heavily guarded with ants? That’s because the tree gives off a sugary syrup to feed them, all for the price of protection. Seems like a healthy enough relationship, right?
Wrong. The acacia produces sap which deliberately causes addiction and dependence to its protector ants. The ants, Pseudomyrmex ferruginea, were found out lacking the enzyme invertase which is basically needed to digest sucrose, the sweet sap’s basic component. The tree makes up for this by secreting invertase along with its nectar. So what’s the catch? It was found out that the tree’s sap also includes the enzyme chitinase which blocks the development of invertase in these ants. The larvae ants were found out to have the invertase but lose it when they develop into adults because of chitinase ingestion, resulting with the ants unable to find other food sources other than the acacia.
And that means all it takes is one sip of the acacia’s sweet nectar as a larvae to lead up to a lifetime of bodyguard service. Seems like nature is the original perpetrator of slavery now, doesn’t it?
***Now enough about them bad animals. Let’s go to who’s more obnoxious–humans.***
Coca-Cola and the “Secret” Ingredient
Even if you wouldn’t see the company admitting, a review of history tells us the world’s most popular soft drink once contained cocaine. It started in 1886 when Atlanta pharmacist John Styth Pemberton concocted a drink mixing coca-leaf extract with French wine which he then called Pemberton’s French Wine Coca. It was even advertised as a patent cure-all tonic, reliever of headaches and morphine addiction, yet one with such a strong “kick” that Southerners even called Coke delivery trucks back then as “dope wagons” and soda fountains as “hop joints”.
Because of alcohol regulations though, Pemberton changed the drink into a sugary syrup but still with its main ingredients coca-leaf and kola-nut extract (hence the origin of the current trade name), along with a dose of caffeine.
It wasn’t until the 1890s when public opinion started to sway differently towards cocaine, reaching its peak in 1903 which finally pushed the company’s manager to remove almost all traces of cocaine in the drink. However, it wasn’t until 1929 that the technology has become available to remove all psychoactive properties of the cola-leaf.
But did it stop there really? A New York Times’ article claimed that the company was still importing coca leaves until the late 1980s. Seems the multi-billion dollar company has indeed strong reasons to put its “secret formula” heavily guarded under bank vaults, huh?
Atheists use it more
In a study funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation, it was concluded that from a group of 5,387 young men, those who said they believe in God deal with substance misuse less than those who are agnostics or atheists. The group was categorized into five: the “religious”, the “spiritual”, the “unsure”, the “agnostics”, and the “atheists”. It was found out that the least amount of consumption of addictive substances (i.e. cigarettes, pot, ecstasy, and cocaine) happened among the religious group while the most habitual users are–you guessed it–the atheists.
Gerhard Gmel, the author of the study further concludes that religion serves as a protective factor instead of a risk factor when it comes to substance addiction.
Well that, or the religious group could be the bigger liars among the group.
But even the pope got hooked
In cocaine’s superstar era (aka Victorian era), an aspiring Italian chemist named Angelo Mariani formulated a wine he called Vin Mariani. He treated the wine with coca leaves, resulting to the ethanol acting as a solvent to extract the cocaine from the leaves, forming the compound cocaethylene–a liver killer and heart attack instigator.
From his first client–a depressed actress–the tonic quickly rose up to fame, even reaching the pope at the time, Pope Leo XIII. The pope liked the drink laced with cocaine so much that he even brought with him his personal flask that he can easily drew up in times of need. Enjoying the effects of this potent tonic, he was very grateful that he awarded a Gold Medal to the wine’s manufacturer.
Mariani of course saw this as a big break. He advertised the Gold Medal award in posters along with the pope’s picture as well. Fewer things could be said as more effective advertisement at the time, and yet the tonic’s other clients were not exactly small names either–the Shah of Persia, King of Spain, King of Greece, Queen Victoria and US President Ulysses S. Grant also got hooked to the stuff. Seems like Mariani got the break he was looking after all.
Now this one is pretty obvious. Research on 2008 showed that 90 percent of US dollar bills in circulation tested positive for traces of cocaine. The bills in your wallet right now might be involved in cocaine drug deals where it got passed from one drug dealing hand to another, or even used to actually snort coke by some users. However, most of the bills got contaminated when it passed through contaminated cash-counting machines at the bank, then the contaminated machine passes on the cocaine to otherwise “clean” banknotes.
But before you go trying to find ways to extract the coke from you bills, it might be relevant to note that the cocaine found in your money is too small an amount to give you a high. That’s unless you have plenty of cash around you–then, it might be reasonable to go sniffing the air to get that high (bank tellers literally breathe in the stuff and might even test positive for cocaine). Then again with that much money you could always go buy the stuff instead. Duh.
So that’s it. I’m out of here again. Will be back to give you some more non-life-changing information once I find the time. Or I could just show you a cute picture of my butt cheek? No? Okay, bye.