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AI image of male shaman using herbal medicine for spiritual healing and sacred rituals.

What Kinds Of Drugs Were Used In Ancient Times?

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Throughout history, the use of drugs has been closely linked to religious, spiritual, and social practices. Ancient societies often used psychoactive substances to transcend the material world and connect with the immaterial. These practices were integral to their rituals and daily life, differing significantly from contemporary views on drug use. 

In ancient Mesoamerica, hallucinogenic drugs played a crucial role. Indigenous peoples, such as the Maya and Aztecs, consumed psychoactive plants and substances like mescaline beans and mushrooms as far back as 9000 BC. These were used not only for religious ceremonies but also for therapeutic purposes, such as treating migraines and seizures. The Olmecs, predecessors to the Maya and Aztecs, used entheogens in rituals, influencing subsequent cultures. 

Similarly, in the Old World, drug use was widespread and diverse. Ancient Chinese and Egyptian societies utilized substances like cannabis for medicinal and ritualistic purposes. The Sumerians, among the earliest civilizations, used opium as early as 5000 BC, a practice that extended to their successors, including the Egyptians and Greeks. Opium use was common across the Mediterranean, evidenced by archaeological findings in Cyprus from around 1100 BC. 

Alcoholic beverages also have a long history, with evidence of mead in China around 7000 BC and berry wine in use by 6000 BC. Ancient texts, such as the Rigveda and literary works by Homer and Ovid, frequently mention the use of these substances, highlighting their integration into daily and ceremonial life. 

Top image: AI image of male shaman using herbal medicine for spiritual healing and sacred rituals. Source:Ян Заболотний/Adobe Stock 

Robbie Mitchell's picture


I’m a graduate of History and Literature from The University of Manchester in England and a total history geek. Since a young age, I’ve been obsessed with history. The weirder the better. I spend my days working as a freelance... Read More

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