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History of Drugs & How People Would Get High

women smoking marijuana

While heavy regulations on drug use have become normalized in modern society, it may come as a surprise that many mind-altering substances have been used in a much different context throughout history. Throughout numerous communities and cultures, people have been taking advantage of natural substances in order to get high. It presents an interesting angle on the place that these drugs have resided in over the years. Banyan’s veteran addiction treatment centers are looking at the history of drugs.


Famous Ways to Get High Throughout History

Whether for pleasure, spiritual purposes, or legitimate medicine, drug use is not restricted to the 20th century and on. There are a wide variety of plants and substances that people have used to enhance feelings and sensations. Below are some intriguing examples of these substances.


Betel Nut

Betel nut chewing was a popular pastime in Asia for centuries before intrigued sailors transported these areca seeds back to Renaissance-age Europe. Similar to chewing tobacco, this possessed stimulant properties that have helped it remain a well-liked recreational substance throughout the Asian continent. This, in turn, has led it to be accepted as the nation's leading cause of oral cancer.



This toxic ornamental plant was utilized as a potent sedative and painkiller for centuries throughout many Eurasian regions. While not difficult to procure, it had to be prepared by someone who was well-versed in the dangers of the substance. If too much was taken, death could very well be the result. In fact, it is believed that this was the toxin that was used to kill Hamlet’s father in Shakespeare’s play.



This powerful substance, derived from the poppy plant, has grown to simultaneous fame and infamy throughout many nations' histories. People have been using the drug since at least the fourth millennium BC, particularly in Southwest Asia. As word spread, it was later transported along the Silk Road, an ancient trade route that linked China and the West, and grew popular throughout East Asia and Europe. The average user would retire to an opium den, where they could purchase and enjoy the drug. To this day, opium can be found used in both medical and illegal settings.



First popular throughout Somalia and Yemen, this plant stimulant was chewed to produce feelings of slight euphoria and energy. While it was banned throughout many British colonies in the 1920s, it has recently begun to rise in popularity as Somalian immigrants migrated to the UK. One prominent active ingredient is Cathinone, which is also found in Bath Salts (a drug containing synthetic cathinones), and while it is not common or well-researched, it could be possible to overdose on Khat.



Originating from the Midwest regions of Africa, this psychoactive that is a stronger alternative to Khat has been used for ages as a forceful tool in a number of spiritual ceremonies. Referred to as “Africa’s ayahuasca,” ibogaine treatment has even been found to help people manage symptoms of opioid withdrawal and overcome addictions to drugs like meth and heroin.


Access Addiction Treatment at Our Veterans Rehab

As our understanding of the dangers of recreational drug use has evolved, so have medical professionals’ responses to cases of addiction to these substances. Our rehab programs for veterans are equipped to address a variety of different addictions.


If you would like to learn more about the levels of care we offer, call Banyan’s military rehab center at 888-280-4763 and speak with an intake specialist today.


Related Reading

How Do Drugs Affect the Brain?

History of Ketamine

Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa is the National Director of Digital Marketing and is responsible for a multitude of integrated campaigns and events in the behavioral health and addictions field. All articles have been written by Alyssa and medically reviewed by our Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Darrin Mangiacarne.
History of Drugs & How People Would Get High
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