Why and how did people in ancient times use drugs?

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Why and how did people in ancient times use drugs?

Life in ancient times was very different from life as we know it today in many ways. The daily pursuits, thinking practices, or belief systems of people in the past are very interesting to us even today. But there are also some things that have remained unchanged from ancient times to modern times. One of them is drug use. In modern times, all kinds of drugs are known to be very harmful to both physical and mental health.

But drug abuse is not a modern day problem! Some scientific studies reveal that the history of drug use is very old. in ancient times; Moreover, people living in different geographic regions of the world are known to use psychotropic substances for similar reasons and forms. So why and how did people use drugs in ancient times? In what conditions did this extremely dangerous and interesting custom arise? Let’s look at the details together.

It is a known fact that all drugs are extremely dangerous, both physically and mentally.

However, as mentioned above, the drug problem is not unique to modern times. Because scientific research reveals that the history of drug use goes back thousands of years. Moreover, these studies show that drug use in ancient times was not a region-specific habit, just as it is today.

People in many different geographic regions from South America to Asia, from Mesopotamia to Europe are known to have used the drug in ancient times.


This unusual information brings with it many questions such as why and how people living in these periods used drugs, and did they have any knowledge of the harms of drugs? Let’s look together for answers to these interesting questions hidden in the depths of the past …

Drug addicts in ancient times were aware of the harm of psychotropic substances!

Marcus Aurelius

At the very least, they knew that these substances are 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, wrote that Emperor Marcus Aurelius used opium because of insomnia and various health problems. On the other hand, the philosopher king of Rome was not the only drug addict in ancient times …

Marijuana use first appeared in Central and Southwest Asia 12,000 years ago


Studies reveal that cannabis spread in different regions of this geography thousands of years ago, becoming popular especially in Egypt, Greece and China. The ancient Greek historian Herodotus, in an essay written in 440 BC, mentions that the Scythians burned hemp seeds and inhaled the smoke.

During excavations in Syria, it was discovered that people who lived in ancient times were cultivating poppy plants for use in the production of opium.

During excavations conducted under the leadership of an archaeologist named Luca Peronel, remains of various plants as well as poppy seeds were discovered in a settlement believed to have belonged to the noble class of the period. Moreover, the findings regarding drug use in ancient times were not limited to this.

Some 8,000-year-old Mesopotamian clay tablets contain information on opium production.

In 2019, research conducted in a tomb called Jirzankal in western China revealed barbecues that are thousands of years old. Almost all of these barbecues have hemp residue in them.

One of the copperplates in the tombs of Girznkal

These barbecues aren’t just for heating or cooking! Because the remains of the millennia-old cannabis plant are found in almost all barbecues. These remains, considered as one of the clear examples of drug use in ancient times and discovered in an ancient cemetery, were an important answer to the question of why people used drugs in ancient times…

Examination of a 3,000-year-old cemetery off the coast of Spain has revealed clear examples of drug use.

Remains of hair were discovered during the relevant study

In a study whose results were published in the journal Scientific Reports in 2023, human hair found in a 3,000-year-old tomb was examined. Scientists concluded that the person whose hair was examined used more than one drug during his life. This discovery is considered a very important discovery in the scientific world.

Because in previous years, drug residues were found on many things that had survived from ancient times. However, the relevant study was one of the rare examples that clearly revealed that people in ancient times were taking drugs…

It is possible to reproduce the results showing that people who lived thousands of years ago used drugs. But why did people who lived in ancient times take drugs?


According to scientists, the answer to this question is very simple. The causes of drug abuse in ancient times were the same as the causes of modern human abuse! Yes, scientific data reveals that people in ancient times used various drugs as recreational drugs.

For example, in a novel set in ancient Greece, it is written that Helen, one of the important characters in the myths, mixed a medicine into her guests’ drink to “relieve the pain and make them forget all evil”! Of course, there are other rather interesting reasons for the old habit of taking drugs.

Remains seized in tombs and temples in different geographical areas show that drugs were also used during religious rituals.


In the early Aztec and Mayan civilizations, various plants with psychoactive properties were cultivated and used extensively during religious rituals. It is known that some of the religious officials living in the magnificent temples of ancient Greek civilization used psychotropic drugs to communicate with the gods and make prophecies while in a trance. In short, drugs were an important part of religious rituals in ancient times.

Remains of medicines found in the tombs of the ancient Egyptian civilization contain important clues about the reasons for the use of related substances.

Tutankhamun, one of the ancient Egyptian pharaohs, was buried thousands of years ago with a flower known for its narcotic properties, and it was scientifically called Nymphaeaceae caerulea. Likewise, it is possible to find similar plants with different religious motifs in Egypt.

For this reason, scientists Used in ancient times to communicate with deceased gods and humans, it is often associated with the afterlife. I think there are elements.

Medicines were also used in ancient times as pain relievers.


However, there is some documentation, particularly in Europe and South America, that landowners who discovered that workers were able to work for longer periods of time without becoming tired under the influence of stimulants regularly gave their workers plants with stimulant effects. In other words, people in the ancient era used different types of medicines for different purposes, just as they do today.

Drug abuse has many harmful effects. And most importantly, it can cause death as a result of poisoning. These substances affect the brain and cause distraction. It can cause accidents by causing concepts such as speed, space, and time to disappear. It can cause many problems such as digestive problems, hearing disorders, respiratory disorders, stroke, heart failure, cancer, and circulatory disorders. Substance addiction not only harms one’s health, but also undermines business life, state economy, and social morality. Substance addiction can be treated. The rate of quitting this bad habit is very high especially in people who fulfill the principles of treatment. It should be noted that there is no “safe” chemical that can be used.

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